Sunday, 6 May 2012

Thumped by Megan McCafferty

Thumped by Megan McCafferty is the sequel and conclusion to Bumped. To give you an idea of the world, I include an adapted version of my LibraryThing review of Bumped from when I read it last year:

Bumped is set in a near future where a fertility virus means that people become infertile at around the age of 18. To keep the human race from being wiped out, American culture has become obsessed with teenage pregnancy (and trying to get the highest birth rates in the world).

I’ve tagged the book as dystopian YA SF, which it is, but I think it would appeal to non-SF readers too. The SF-y elements are significantly less prominent than, for example in The Hunger Games or Divergent.

Mostly, this is a book about teenagers coping with a strange world in which they are the only ones that can ensure the existence of the next generation. In different ways, the youth are encouraged/brain-washed into reproducing as much as they can, ether by being professional surrogate (or “pro surrogettes”) or by making amateur babies with their boy/girlfriends.

The story follows twin sisters, Melody raised in the mainstream (American) society, and Harmony raised by conservative, Amish-like Christians. Through their two perspectives (alternating first person) we learn about the world bit by bit. I liked the short chapters which kept the story moving rapidly and gave a feeling of simultaneity for the two plot lines. I also thought the language and slang, particularly of the mainstream sister, was spot on and added authenticity to world building.

Overall, I highly recommend it, although some aspects of the sex-culture could irk some readers.

Thumped picked up around eight and a half months after Bumped left off and is a very quick read; I got through it in an evening.

The overtly religious aspects of Harmony got under my skin less in Thumped than in book 1, largely because she spent a lot of this book questioning things. However, I did feel that the book was too short. When I was half or two thirds of the way through, I was wondering how it could possible wrap up all the issues it raised in the pages remaining (in my Random House UK copy, the story ends on page 290). The answer turned out to be: rapidly. It was resolved quickly but I didn’t feel like much was left hanging. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel, perhaps with different characters and less fast-paced because I’m curious as to how the world turns out. Unlike more conventional YA dystopias (like The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc) this duology does not follow the formula of

  1. identify massive problems with society

  2. enact/take part in a revolution.

If anything it ends at 1 and merely hints at a non-violent version of 2 to come. Which is a nice change.

Another thing I’d like to mention is that the issues with the world are kind of obvious from the start. It’s even obvious why brainwashing advertising kids into making babies seems like a good idea. But I got sucked into the world enough that, while I agreed with Melody’s reservations, it wasn’t until she articulated the situation at the end that all the ramifications really sunk in.

So Thumped was a nice conclusion to Bumped. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, but I think that’s mainly because the novelty of the world-concept had worn off. (For the record, I still enjoyed the slang but I felt there was either less of it or I had become immune. Except for “for seriously” because d’uh it should be “for serious”.) On reflection, I think the two books could have been released in one volume (it needn’t even have been a very long volume). Despite the time gap, there were a lot of loose ends in Bumped and they very much feel like one story split into two volumes.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this series to people who like YA, high-concept dystopias, or interesting slang. And if you’ve read and not hated Bumped, you really can’t not read the second half of the story in Thumped.

4 / 5 stars

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