by Megan McCafferty
In the not-too-distant future, an infertility virus has struck the population. Sometime between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays, men and women are losing the ability to reproduce. Only young, healthy teenagers are capable of producing offspring…and would-be parents are willing to pay top dollar for the smartest and prettiest teens to “bump” and give children to them. Sixteen-year-old Melody has spent her entire life preparing to become a Surrogette, and has scored an enviable contract with a wealthy family. However, her twin sister Harmony threatens to upset her plans when she suddenly appears on Melody’s doorstep. Separated at birth and raised in a super-conservative “fundamentalist” community, Harmony is determined to save Melody’s soul and bring her back to Goodside. It’s a complete culture clash, with each sister working to opposite ends, and the inevitable chaos that erupts will change both of their lives forever.
I really feel conflicted about this young adult novel. On the one hand, I love the ideas behind the novel. The world McCafferty creates, in which teen pregnancy is celebrated and highly desired by society, is bizarre and disturbing. It’s a place where preteens buy fake pregnancy bellies that move to simulate the baby inside and girls finance their college careers by having babies for strangers. Sex between minors isn’t just accepted but aggressively encouraged. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, but at the same time seems just within the realm of possibility, which makes it a captivating scenario.
But the execution of the story left a lot to be desired. In the first place, McCafferty’s characters use a lot of made up slang. This is fairly common in young adult novels, but these teens would use so many new words that following their conversations was at times difficult and frustrating…especially when so much of the new language revolved around pregnancy or future social networking technologies. (In the future, we will be permanently wired to the MiNet.)
Another major problem is the characters are pretty flat. Melody is a fairly personality-less young woman who suddenly develops reservations about being a surrogate mother after being raised to be one since earliest childhood. Meanwhile, sister Harmony is painted as the most extreme right-winger fundamentalist fanatic you can imagine until she sees a hot guy, and suddenly BAM she’s a lusty wench who can’t wait to jump in his pants. I mean, I understand that teenagers are all over the place, emotionally, but this is just ridiculous. The two male leads are equally weak; Zen is Melody’s sympathetic best friend (and in love with her, naturally) and Johndoe the gorgeous hunk that every girl wants to “bump” with.
Finally, the last third of the book is super-rushed and has no real resolution. In fact, it’s pretty much a cliffhanger…which means it is completely unsatisfying. I’ve heard that a sequel is in the works, and I’m sure it’ll be out soon enough, but I just hate it when a book is so dependent on a subsequent volume that it can’t stand alone.
2.5 out of 5 stars