Author: Megan McCafferty
Source: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
In a near-future America, a virus has sterilized everyone over the age of twenty, meaning that fertile teenagers are suddenly the hottest commodities in the free market.
Melody was the first of her classmates to sign on as a pro, getting contracted to deliver a baby to an infertile couple who would pay richly upon delivery. But due to pickiness on the couple's part regarding the potential sperm donor, she's sixteen and still hasn't yet "bumped," or conceived. Although that's not her fault, she's facing derision from her pregnant classmates. Plus she's afraid that her best guy friend, Zen, is drifting away from her. Not to mention the horrible thing that happened to her best friend, Malia, when she gave birth. Oh, and there's the matter of the long-lost twin sister that suddenly turned up on her doorstep . . .
Harmony is a runaway from a conservative religious sect that deals with the fertility problem by arranging marriages at thirteen. She's come to her sister, hoping to bring her to God and also feel a little less like an outcast herself. She's out of touch and dazed by the secular, sinful world she finds herself in now, but also a little exhilarated at the unaccustomed freedom, especially after she's mistaken for her sister and swept off to get inseminated by the most beautiful boy she's ever seen. Besides, she can't exactly go back. Because she's left more than a few secrets behind her . . .
Told in alternating viewpoints over just a couple of days, both girls are forced to confront the beliefs of their differing worlds, and how those beliefs don't mesh with what's inside them.
Why I Wanted to Read It: While I never read the Jessica Darling series, I wanted to see how this particular spin on the dystopia craze would play out.
McCafferty makes the preggy-crazy society entertaining as all hell, with pop songs about insemination and accessories that imitate a pregnancy belly. Harmony's world, mostly told and not shown, is a little more standard-fare, repressive patriarchal religious cult, ho-hum.
As the story unfolds, we realize the far-reaching damages that both societies inflict. Late in the book, we meet an eleven-year-old girl in a birthing center, and not to visit. In both cases, sexual choice is removed from the teenagers' control. I say teenagers and not teen girls because the boys are part of it too. The more genetically desirable boys are encouraged to procreate, some of them even becoming professional inseminators, and the less desirable are called "worms" and reduced to being the designated driver at the orgy. Again, there's less of Harmony's world shown, but if you've read one repressive-patriarchal-religious cult book, you've read 'em all, and you know what to expect.
I feel as if this book didn't quite do what it set out to do, but it's still thought-provoking. Both girls feel out of place in their worlds, seemingly for different reasons but actually for the same one. They're being told what to do with their bodies. Have as much sex as possible, wait for the assigned mate. Get pregnant, pop 'em out, for reasons forced on them from the outside. Neither sister will be happy until they take control and make the choices instead of having them made for them.
So much for individual choice. But my cynical side says, "Yes, but . . . society's got a point. Without the teen pregnancies, there would swiftly be no human race." It's the free-market aspect of it that's so entirely horrifying.
My strongest complaint is the end. So the two sisters have gone through their separate journeys and arrived at the same conclusion and come together as sisters, oh! hugs and puppies! All of a sudden out of left field there came this weird sequel-begging, he-said/she-said Big Misunderstanding denouement. It was kind of annoying, because it felt as if the story was going somewhere else entirely and then someone decided we needed a series. I'll read it, because this was entertaining and I want to see where Melody, Harmony, Zen, Jondoe, and Ram end up in their messed-up world, but I feel like it could have been done in one book.