Review: Thumped by Megan McCafferty

Thumped
Megan McCafferty

Balzer + Bray
Releases on April 24, 2012
304 pages
YA / Light Sci-Fi

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Last summer I picked up Megan McCafferty’s Bumped on a whim after seeing it at the library. It was a book that I shouldn’t have liked about characters I shouldn’t have enjoyed reading about, but I did enjoy it and found it to be a fun, incredibly fast read. I do point out in my review of Bumped, however, that with 20 or 30 more pages, it could have been a great self-contained novel. Instead it’s a story broken into two pieces with Thumped focusing on the aftermath of the adventures in the first book.

Spoilers for Bumped ahead

Bumped ended with Harmony running away from Otherside thinking that Johndoe, the closeted Churchie teenager who is the hottest “man brand” around, slept with her simply as business and knowing deep down that she is now pregnant. Thumped opens up eight months later with Harmony back in Goodside, pregnant with twins she claims are her husband’s. Meanwhile Melody is claiming her own twin pregnancy with Johndoe as the father as part of a sort of marketing coup for teenage pregnancy. The only problem is that Melody’s pregnancy is a fake created by a high-tech bio-belly that mocks human tissue and fetus growth, and yet these “twins” are still promised to a couple Melody has never met.

It’s all very soap opera-ish and silly, but not nearly as much fun as Bumped was. The entire story takes place in the span of two days. Melody and Zen are pretending they’re just platonic friends for the sake of her marketing “brand”, which has driven Zen into the arms of her biggest preg rival. Harmony is stuck in Goodside, forced into isolation not only from the outside world but also from most of her friends and family inside. All she really has is Ram, her dopey closeted husband, who has been granted freedom to enter Otherside by the elders to try converting others and takes advantage of the privilege whenever possible. Meanwhile Harmony is slowly going crazy, both in the eyes of the Church elders, but also in the eyes of a sane person like me, the reader.

Both Melody and Harmony seem to have gone to the extremes of their personalities compared to in Bumped. Harmony feels extreme guilt for having sex outside of her marriage as well as the lying she’s doing to her community and the public at large while still desiring Johndoe. This amps up her internal monologue of preachiness. While it’s understandable in the character’s development, it began to bother me about midway through and soon felt very heavy-handed. Melody meanwhile is pulled between anxiety over being found out about her fake pregnancy and her anxiety over losing Zen while the world-wide con continues to its final conclusion.

Overall though, the book lost a lot of what I found charming about Bumped by focusing so much on the internal emotions of the two girls and not as much on their interactions with the outside world. Despite his importance to Melody, Zen’s time on screen is very limited and Melody doesn’t really have any interactions with anybody else. Johndoe acts the gallant hero, attempting to rescue Harmony from a life of confinement, only to be pushed off to the side and watch as everything happens. There isn’t even that much interaction between Harmony and Melody. Yes, it’s the story of the twin girls, but by isolating them to being so within their own heads, it felt like not enough really happened to fill the book’s 300 pages.

Towards the end the plot takes a sharp left turn and heads for the dramatic instead of the usual teenage melodrama. It was both jarring and satisfying, giving the story a little more heft than it would have otherwise. The ending is predictable and the final lines a bit cheesy, but it’s a cautionary tale where the teenagers come out being the sanest of the bunch. If looked at as a morality tale, it covers some interesting material, but doesn't go very far outside of "Buying babies is bad!" It’s full of goofy slang and teenager speak, which could become highly annoying to some readers, but only made me roll my eyes here and there depending on who was speaking them.

Overall Thumped isn’t as exciting or unexpected as Bumped, though I suppose a sequel rarely ever is. It continues the story of Melody and Harmony in a way that’s fairly predictable once all the pieces are set, only shrinking their world to mostly being isolated within their own heads. It’s not action-packed or full of plot twists, but it’s a suitable conclusion to their story.