I got Megan McCafferty's new book, Bumped, through the Cornucopia of Dystopia blog tour, and was extremely excited by the newest addition to the YA dystopian genre. Unfortunately, Bumped was not my favourite book, despite my fangirl-esque take on Megan's Jessica Darling series.
After some communication back and forth, Megan was kind enough to offer to answer questions specifically regarding my qualms with Bumped. It's quite probably the most insightful author interview I've ever had, and I truly thank her for her generous answers and understanding and respect of my review.
While Bumped was not for me, I highly recommend you seek the book out yourself to form your own opinion of the book. After all, that's the beauty of the book blogosphere - we all have our own opinions, and who knows...someone's least favourite might be someone's new favourite.
1. In a dystopian genre that's fast-becoming filled with unique stories, what do you think sets Bumped apart from the rest?
There aren’t too many satirical YA novels. BUMPED is a send-up of the extreme thinking that fuels the culture wars.
2. Bumped displays an extraordinary amount of slang and foreign terminology in the first few chapters, only relaxing about halfway through the book. What do you think this slang should lend to the reader?
I love playing with words. The slang is intentionally over-the-top, much of it playing off of t-shirt slogans like “my eggo is preggo” found on mommy-to-be blogs. I also appreciate when an author doesn’t resort to info dumping and allows readers to figure things out as they go along. Yet I understand how the first chapters might be confusing or annoying for some readers…I just hope not to the point that they give up on the book altogether.
I want readers to consider the influence of language on culture and vice versa. Both Melody and Harmony have been (nearly) brainwashed by their belief systems and the most obvious impact is on how they communicate. When in doubt, Harmony falls back on Bible quotes because she’s been programmed not to think for herself. As she is emboldened to question her upbringing, she relies on Scripture less and less. And in the very first scene, Melody is rehearsing “fertilicious” slang because, deep down, she’s extremely uncomfortable with being a Surrogette and yet is expected to serve as a reproductive role model. She hopes that by saying it, she will believe it, and be it. There’s less slang as the book progresses because Melody is rebelling against the worldview that encourages it.
3. What do you think separates Melody and Harmony, despite the obvious being their upbringing and their backgrounds?
Identical twins can have very different dispositions. So Melody is book smart, but lacks people skills. She’s hard-wired to be cynical and quick to judge, qualities that have been encouraged in a cutthroat culture where her attractiveness, intelligence and achievements are commodified. Despite her preachy background, Harmony is more open-minded and big-hearted by nature. She’s also better attuned to people’s emotions, a skill that serves her well as she tries to break free from her past. Both girls have a long way to go in figuring out who they really want to be because they’ve been living up to others’ expectations for sixteen years.
4. In an age where Teen Mom, The Pregnancy Pact and teen pregnancy in general are highly publicized in the media, was Bumped meant to be ironic or a twist on the way society regards it today?
Ironic! Absolutely! 16 & Pregnant, and to a slightly lesser degree, Teen Mom, do a commendable job of showing how incredibly difficult it is to be a young mother. Every girl on these shows greatly underestimates the challenges of raising a baby. I don’t see how anyone who has actually watched those shows could think MTV is promoting teen pregnancy. (Just like I don’t understand how anyone can read BUMPED and think the same.)
The problem is how our 24/7 media culture has turned these young moms into tabloid cover girls, or has enabled Bristol Palin to profit as a poster mom for abstinence. They are demonized and glamorized, and these extreme reactions are what inspired me to satirize the so-called “teen mom phenom” in BUMPED.
5. Bumped is marketed to the YA genre. Do you think it is appropriate for the younger YA readers?
BUMPED is appropriately labeled as 14-and-up. It’s a cautionary tale of what can happen when society promotes casual sex. It’s pro-love and pro-faith. These are positive messages for readers who are ready to receive them. Will all 14 year olds get it? No. There will be 24-year-olds who won’t get it either. But that’s the risk I’ve taken in choosing to write this type of book in this particular way.
6. In Bumped, how did you balance the character development versus the world development?
Melody and Harmony have spent their whole lives as repositories for their parents’ hopes and dreams. It was challenging to reflect their lack of personal development but still make them relatable characters worth caring about. I decided to micro instead of macro, structuring BUMPED as a day in the life of two girls going to the mall, going to school, going on a date in this baby crazy world. Their true personalities come through in the choices they make as this ordinary day turns extraordinary.
7. Bumped presents a world that is, essentially, rather grim, but the tone of the book is almost light and fluffy in comparison. How did you choose to balance the two?
I don’t do grim. It’s not my thing. I can see why readers might be surprised when they catch themselves laughing out loud at some of the slogans and expressions. But it’s the contrast between the “light and fluffy” tone and the grim setting that should make the world of BUMPED even more horrifying. If you feel like shaking these girls and yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” then I’ve succeeded.