Bumped by Megan McCafferty (NY: Balzer & Bray, 2011).
Bumped plunges the reader into an odd dystopian world where a virus affects everyone at age 18 and renders them infertile. This means that teen pregnancy is not only required, but glorified—and aggressively pursued by parents! Yes, parents push their girls to get pregnant and even turn it to their financial advantage. Girls do not dream of marriage but rather bumping (i.e., having sex and getting pregnant) with "reproaesthetical" sex partners, generally arranged by conception contractors for surrogate parents.
The narrative switches between the perspectives of Melody and Harmony, identical twin girls who were separated at birth and grew up in very different environments. Melody's parents, wealthy New Jersey college professors, have spared no expense to make her into a desirable match who will produce an ideal baby, or preferably multiple babies, for some lucky parents who will pay top dollar for her progeny. Harmony, on the other hand, has lived in Goodside (in Pennsylvania), a religious enclave separate from Otherside, where Melody lives. People in Goodside marry young and reproduce, and they want to convert all the sinners in Otherside. Indeed, Harmony ventures out of Goodside to find her long-lost twin and save her.
McCafferty creates a wholly believable dystopia in Bumped, complete with its own ridiculous language and social customs that totally mock present day values, including those of religious fundamentalists. In some ways it's reminiscent of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in that respect, but it's different in its criticism of consumerist culture (there it's more like Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy). Because the reader is catapulted into this world, it seems very confusing at first, although Melody's character in particular is realistically drawn with familiar teen concerns about family, friends, and boys, even given her extreme situation. Harmony's character is less fleshed out and more reliant on stereotypes, yet she becomes more real as she spends time in Melody's world. McCafferty is facing the eternal dilemma that good is a whole lot less interesting than evil, and the middle space yields the greatest potential for an engrossing story. Despite the bumpy start, Bumped is well worth reading.
Recommended for ages 13 & up. Sexual situations (not graphic).
More in reading aloud - http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/reading-aloud-kids-important/ Just to follow up, here is a post from KQ, Knowledge Quest, a publication of AASL, the Ameri...
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