In a world where only teenagers can have babies things are exactly as you would expect–stupid. Something has gone wrong in the world, specifically a virus, which causes anybody above the ages of eighteen to twenty to become infertile. It’s left to teenagers to keep the world’s population up, but as you can imagine this is full of drama and stupidity as teenagers are full of both.
Adult couples desiring children often buy babies off of pregnant teenage girls. A whole new industry has risen up in matching the correct teenage girl and sperm donor to the correct couple. Melody Mayflower was the first teenager in her high school to sign up to professionally match with someone for a couple. Nothing has happened yet, but she waits for the day when it will. She has encouraged many other girls to go the same route. These girls give up their own babies to the highest paying bidder, but the girls don’t really regret it because they’re given large doses of a medication that makes it impossible for them to bond with their babies. It’s all business as usual.
Things were business as usual for Melody until her twin sister, Harmony, showed up. They were separated at birth and have no idea who their parents are. Harmony was raised inside of a strict religion, while Melody was raised with all the things of the world, such as a rampant encouragement for teenagers and preteens to have sex. The fear is that because Harmony looks exactly like Melody that she could counterfeit her and undercut her price and devalue what Melody has to offer. Melody tries desperately to keep Harmony a secret, but her best guy friend finds out soon after Harmony shows up.
Harmony has been doubting her life in her religious world. She is expected to be married and be a mother from a very young age, thirteen or so, but her first fiance was taken away from her at thirteen, now at sixteen she has another chance, but things still aren’t exactly right, and everyone eventually finds out that Harmony isn’t telling the whole truth.
Both girls eventually find out that the things they originally wanted aren’t what they really want. Things are broken in both their worlds, perhaps they as sisters can help to make them right.
What I liked
I didn’t quite expect this book to turn out as it did when I first started reading it. I am quite fond of dystopian novels. I like to read about all the ways society could possibly fall apart and how people would pick up, or not pick up, afterwards. Maybe my fondness for dystopian novels makes me weird, whatever. P.D. James wrote about a similar dystopian scenario. In her book, Children of Men, no one could have babies. No one. Something happened and mankind’s fate was seemingly sealed. The human race would die out because no one could reproduce, or so everyone thought.
Megan doesn’t address this ‘what if’ in a manner as serious as P.D. did, but she still addresses the question. Really, what if humanity couldn’t reproduce like it should be able to? You may think this entire mode of questioning stupid or silly, but don’t. There’s scientific evidence for you to take this line of questioning seriously.
Here’s something you should know, while we do have quite a large world population these days, the largest in the history of the Earth, we’re also having some fertility problems, more likely to be in developed countries versus non-developed countries. Infertility rates have gone up, a lot, in the past fifty years or so. Today, the infertility rates in developed countries, specifically The United States, are primarily caused by an autoimmune disease called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; PCOS causes about seventy percent of infertility cases in The United States(don’t quote me on that, those could be older statistics, but past research gave that number). Here’s the thing–no one knows what causes PCOS and no one knows what causes some other infertility problems. You can actually be diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility;’ doctors pretty much throw their hands up in the air and say, “Beats me.”
Some infertility problems can be resolved, but there are some that cannot be remedied no matter how hard anyone tries and the problem is becoming more frequent. Something more people should be worried about are the skyrocketing rates of PCOS, which affects approximately ten percent of child-bearing aged women in developed countries these days. What’s going to happen if that numbers gets to fifty percent? PCOS is not a sentence to infertility, but it makes things more difficult.
We have to consider the idea that perhaps we brought this upon ourselves. Some people theorize that PCOS is caused by excesses of various chemicals, hormone mimickers, and hormone disruptors that are so often found in our more developed worlds these days. Some studies even point to GMOs, saying that rats who ate GMOs for several generations found themselves unable to reproduce. Whatever the answer is, we should probably be more concerned about it. Really, this could come back to bite us in the butts and we’ll just be screwed.
I explained all of this to provide evidence to back up Megan’s decision to write about a world where fertility is at stake. It was a smart move on Megan’s part to address the idea of world where humanity was not failing because of nuclear war or zombies, but by the inability to reproduce. I hate to burst all the zombie-lovers’ bubbles but, an apocalypse by infertility is more likely to happen than an apocalypse by zombies.
Good job, Megan.
What I didn’t like
In the beginning of my post I mentioned that a world where only teenagers could have babies would be stupid and I meant it. First of all, we know teenagers are stupid, we know they make unwise decisions and their brains aren’t all the way developed yet. Can you imagine having to cater to that? Imagine having to treat all those unwise teenagers with respect and even worship because they’re the only ones who could have babies.
Add on top of that a world and economy that also has to cater to teenagers. Everywhere teenagers look in Melody’s world they are told to have sex. Teen pregnancy is a norm. It’s encouraged. Girls run around hoping to get pregnant every nine months. Their bodies aren’t even finished developing yet. The world becomes stupid because, let’s face it, teenage girls aren’t the brightest people on the planet. The stores, the news, the media, the everything–caters to teenage girls.
The characters in the book say things like “fertilicious.” Really?
Look, everyone likes sex, for the most part, but in a world where sex is so strongly shoved in everyone’s faces, it loses its, dare I say, sacredness. Yes, there have been cults that have used sex as a form of worship, but when I say sex is sacred I’m not describing it in that manner. Sex is something you do because you want to, not necessarily because you have to. In this story sex is almost like a war effort. Have sex for your country, or else you’re not a real American. I know it sounds silly, but that’s kind of the vibe I get from this whole book. The specialness of the whole thing has been taken away. None of it is about pleasure, love, or psychological or physiological need anymore, it’s all about reproduction. It’s all on a time-table. It’s become mandatory. We all know when something becomes mandatory that all the enjoyment can be sucked right out of a situation.
Can you imagine a world where no one really wants to have sex of their own accord because of all the expectations placed on getting pregnant?
Life is about more than passing on genetic material.
Let’s hope to goodness that we never have to depend on teenagers to have the sole responsibility of carrying on the human race.
If it was suddenly made known that only teenagers could get pregnant, would you encourage your daughter to get pregnant or would you encourage her to stick to her current path in life?
Do you think religious inhibitions about teenage and premarital sex would become more lenient in the case of something like this happening in the world, or do you believe they would only become more strict?
bumped, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, dystopian novel, dystopian novel about pregnant teenagers, failure to reproduce, harmony, infertility, megan mccafferty, melody, PCOS, teen pregnancy, teenagers, teenagers get pregnant, unexplained infertility
Coming of age, Fiction, Finding Your Self, McCafferty-Megan, Social Commentary, what if, Young Adult