Thumped picks up eight and a half months after Bumped ended. Harmony has returned to Goodside, the religious compound that she called home prior to decamping to Otherside to find her identical twin sister, Melody. Harmony didn't leave alone, however; she is pregnant with twin girls. Meanwhile, back in Otherside, Melody, thanks to ALTERR (Artificial Living Tissue Engineered for Reproducing Reproduction), is "mocked up." ALTERR is a fake womb that simulates pregnancy so realistically that it fools even doctors. Babies show up on an ultrasound, even though Melody isn't pregnant. But she's pretending to be, and helping her out is Jondoe, the true Baby Daddy of Harmony's twins and the faux Baby Daddy of Melody's.
With me so far? It really isn't as confusing as it sounds.
Also along is Zen, Melody's soulmate, who wants to wage war against in what he calls The Mission: "protesting against the culture of reproductive profiteering." Zen, for all of his zealotry, is a likable boy, and Melody struggles with the intensity of her feelings for him. They are both virgins, in Melody's case not for a lack of trying and heavy marketing of her womb, and Zen more due to a dogged determination that his sperm not be used against him.
The message of Thumped echoes that of Bumped. We are in danger of living in a world where teen pregnancy, which already elevates some girls to celebrity status, will consume us to the point that we, like Melody's parents, Ash and Ty, are willing to whore out our children to procreate. As Melody observes, "Our whole world has gone ... baby crazy. ... That's what we're dealing with here. Not bumps or pregs or deliveries. Or whatever other euphemism you want to use to distance yourself from the truth. We're making babies. We're creating people. And we're having meaningless sex to do it! And yet we pretend like it's no big deal. We pretend we aren't in the business of buying and selling human beings."
Part of Melody's enlightenment as to the terrible nature of "pregging" is due to the Jaydens, the couple paying for the twins she supposedly is carrying. Melody is drawn to them. Her gut instinct is that they would make great parents, and she truly would like to help them out in that regard. But Melody is not the one who is pregnant, and Harmony is back with her husband, Ram, in Goodside.
This is a fantastic satire of what we have become and the potential of what we could be, if we continue to prize celebrity over actual accomplishment. Parts of this are guffawingly funny, and parts might meld your cold hard heart just a little. When Ram makes a life changing announcement, I admit that I didn't know whether to applaud him or laugh at the silliness of the reactions he received. Again, we buy into a celebrity culture based on nothing but toothpicks in the sand.
My biggest complaint about Thumped is its ease. What made Bumped so intriguing is that it asked us to examine that side of us that buys People magazine and reads articles about Jamie Lynn Spears' teen pregnancy (color me guilty) or watches reality television about teen mothers. As a high school teacher, I see so many girls get pregnant during the very years they should be free from that enormous responsibility, so Bumped gave me a lot to think about and consider. Thumped is not as challenging. The "bad guys" are much easier to spot, and the debate is more clear cut. There isn't a lot of controversy or conflict here as far as the book's message. Oh, sure, Melody and Harmony find themselves in a pickle, and the men in their lives alternately assist and provoke them, but there is no mystery as to what Megan McCafferty wants us to take away from her novel. I think I miss that.
Still, though, Thumped is a good follow-up to its predecessor. Melody and Harmony's voices are strong. We can see the confused teenaged girls in them. What is the right thing to do? What do we owe our parents? What do we owe God? And what do we owe ourselves? Melody confronts this with poignancy. She knows she's too young to be a mother, but this is her last chance before the virus renders her infertile.
And that is why I want a third book. Part of me would like the romance of a happy ending. There is a cure! Melody can have a baby when she's older! The Jaydens can have a baby! Harmony can have a baby! Teenage girls can go back to being teenage girls! Teenage boys no longer have to compete against each other for Most Desirable Sperm!
But McCafferty has said that this is it. She always envisioned two books, Bumped and Thumped, and the story is over. Even so, she leaves us with a topic worth of thought and discussion. Let's not disappoint her, shall we?