In our near future, a virus wipes out the ability of adult women to carry children to term. Teen pregnancies become revered, trendy, and lucrative. Melody’s adoptive parents have groomed her to be the perfect Surogette who will “bump” for the highest bidders, with whatever genetically perfect stud the wealthy future parents choose. The only problem is her secret twin sister, Harmony, who was adopted into the fundamentalist Church. Engaged at thirteen, Harmony believes that premarital sex for pay is a sin, so she leaves the sheltered Church town to find Melody and save her from pregging for profit before it’s too late.
This is a fairly light story, compared with, say, the similarly premised Children of Men. There’s never any question that the human race will survive, provided we’re a-ok with lots of teenage pregnancies. The world seems to be rolling on much the same as now, in fact — no post-apocalyptic tendencies at all.
When I say “now,” of course, I mean a United States in which the House of Representatives votes to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the most important providers of contraception and STD testing in the country, especially for lower-income women; a Florida court orders a pregnant woman confined to the hospital against her will; a state Senator thinks it’s totally reasonable to compare pregnant women to pregnant cows and the monetary value thereof. Just to name a few recent news items that pissed me off.
So we’ve got some stuff to talk about in this country, in terms of how we treat women and our wombs, “pre-pregnant” or otherwise. Bumped reads light and entertaining, full of zippy slang like Feed, and much like Feed it also asks the tough questions: Why do we have sex? To whom do our bodies belong? How are sex and love and making babies connected, and what is the impact of disconnecting them? How can people of faith interpret sexuality differently? What are our obligations to society vs. our obligations to ourselves? (Unlike Feed it did not make me want to jump off a bridge.)
My only real complaint about this book is the ending, which struck me as so abrupt I thought I’d missed something. It’s clearly heading for a sequel, which I will happily read, but I think this story would have been better told in a longer single volume. Both girls rushed their realizations at the end to give the book some sort of stopping place; it felt off.
Other than that, though, this is sharp, inventive science fiction that will give teenagers and adults a lot to chew on. I want to start a book club at school just so we can read this book.
(Advance copy received from NetGalley, my favorite new toy. Publication date Apr. 26, 2011.)