Monday, July 8, 2013

The TorchBearers' Book Club: Bumped chapters 13-14

Welcome back, lovely readers!

You know, I may say there isn’t much of a plot to Bumped (surface plot, that is), but once McCafferty introduces the conflict, she goes at it fairly quickly. The next few chapters have Harmony following the surface plot with a single-minded determination while Melody continues on, in blissful ignorance, to introduce us to every shade of wrong in this society (there, I sneaked a 50 shades reference, happy world?)

The chapter opens with Melody trying on clothes.

“Is this an outfit that says, I’ll be bumped any day now?”

When she turns to look at me, I realize that she’s waiting for my opinion.

“Y-y-yes?”

She slaps her hand to her forehead. “Look who I’m asking!” She gestures at my full-skirted day dress and matching gloves. “I bet you never worry about what to wear.”

When I realize that she’s being playful, not judgmental, I return her smile. “By dressing simply and humbly, we don’t waste time worrying about our appearance. We have more time to serve God and our community.”

“I wonder how much more I could accomplish,” Melody says, throwing the T aside and reaching for a gauzy floral blouse, “if I didn’t go through this every single day.”

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (pp. 92-93). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

It’s a nice little bit of dialogue, for two reasons. One - it shows that the twins are already more relaxed with each other than they were the day before. It could be because of what just happened (Melody’s parents basically telling her that they pimped her out twice, once to Lib and once to the bank), but it’s good to see the girls interacting, if not like sisters, then at least as tentative friends. Which leads me to two - each is becoming more open and accepting to the culture of the other. Harmony suppresses her prejudice against the style of clothes in Otherside and tries to play along, Melody recognised a part of her daily ritual that is wasteful and pointless. They’re not willing to accept each other’s culture, but they’re willing to try.

And in case you’re wondering why Melody doesn’t talk about what happened with her parents… well, it’s complicated, and I don’t think we’ll be able to get to it today. I’ll just share this bit from the last chapter and let you draw your conclusions.

“Honor thy parents is one of your commandments. Honor thy contracts is one of mine.” I try to say it like I mean it. “I’m not a renegger.”

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 91). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Anyway, Harmony thinks about her home, trying to imagine her housesisters fussing over appearances like Melody does. In other novels, this would have been taken clearly as promoting one lifestyle over the other, but then she talks about group prayer and reveals to us that the girls in Goodside can be just as shallow and catty as Melody. Just in a different way.

This is the first one I’ve missed since I was struck down by mule flu last year. Forgive me for saying so, but I don’t regret not being there.

Please don’t think I’m disrespecting the power of fellowship and group prayer. When we join together in worship, we gain one another’s strength. However, we’ve been taught that we can only ask for things that bring glory to God and I don’t see how it glorifies God when Laura asks Him to cure her bad breath. He’s is all the way up in Heaven and not sharing the same loom. She’s wasting God’s time.

It pains me to say this, but Katie uses prayershare to shed embarrassing light on others’ failings under the pretense of saving a soul. For example, a few weeks ago she said, “Please pray for my friend who has lust in her heart for her fiancé’s brother.” And nobody could pray hard for the rest of the session because we were too busy not so quietly speculating who in our prayerclique had lust in her heart for her future brother-in-law. Such gossip isn’t praiseworthy. And it was doubly pointless because everyone already knows that Emily sobbed for a week after she was betrothed in her Blooming to the younger, bucktoothed Stoltzfus boy.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (pp. 93-94). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Glad to see you’re human too, Harmony.

Also, first we get earthquakes that are frequent and threatening enough to get parents to give GPS cards to their children, and now mule flu? If the scare was even half as scary as the one its chicken and beef counterparts caused, it’s no wonder everyone’s breeding like there’s no tomorrow - they’re probably convinced the Apocalypse is coming. Once more, we get an inkling to the fact that this world operates on different rules than our own, but then everything gets shut down before anyone can expand. Are earthquakes and diseases very serious? Is this what all the intelligent, responsible adults occupy themselves with? If everyone was focusing on inventing cures for new, scary superviruses and natural disaster relief, it would explain why only the opportunistic, money-grabbing arseholes are taking care of the children.

Melody is too distracted by the MiNet to notice Harmony checking out her clothes, and then she sees that Zen’s arrived, so she dashes off. Then Harmony goes on and puts on Melody’s clothes. As you do.

I still feel naked! The fabric is as light as air, no more than a whisper against my skin. It’s indescribably strange to be covered up and yet, so . . . free. I cautiously look in the mirror, afraid that this is somehow a trick. . . .

That pretty girl in the mirror, openmouthed and pink in the cheeks, looks almost like an Othersider. There’s just one minor adjustment.

The gloves come off.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 97). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The first time I read through this passage, I was confused as to why Harmony is doing any of this. Then again, I was a little distracted by the sheer amount of fuckery that this universe presented, so I missed on some of the hints McCafferty dropped ever since the start of the second act, and only realised what Harmony was doing when she explains in her next segment. And isn’t that nice? An author who actually lets her audience deduce what’s happening and second-guess the protagonist’s motivation, instead of outright telling us? And who doesn’t draw out the denuement because they don’t have any better big reveals?

Why, again, is this book rated lower than Halo on GR?

We move onto Melody’s section, where she snarks at Zen for his new “buddy”. Which is fair enough - Melody is naturally upset her best friend stopped talking to her, more so because the past few weeks have proved to be extremely emotionally gruelling. She’s not convinced with Zen’s explanation that he was studying for exams, either, which leads to this passage:

“I don’t get why you’re suddenly so obsessed with the IAMs anyway,” I say, rolling my bike back and forth, crunching the gravel. “Weren’t you the one telling me that brick-and-mortar institutions of higher learning are so last century? That my parents had the right idea, going out there and living life with the whole world as their classroom . . .”

I stop myself. My awesome parents are the last people I want to talk about right now. Gah. I change the subject.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 99). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Ouch. Ouch for Melody and ouch for me too.

You don’t know this, but a few short weeks ago (and, hell, for the past year or so) I’d become increasingly convinced I was wasting my time with my university degree. I study business, for fuck’s sake. Everyone studies business. By the time I enter the job market, it would be so saturated with people just like me, my degree would be worth only as much as the paper it would be printed on. I can’t say I’m entirely reassured now, either.

A university degree is useful, but only in certain subjects - medicine, law, engineering - stuff that requires very specific skills, very focused qualification. Medicine, in particular, is a subject you never stop studying. Business, though? I just finished a placement for which I had no previous training or experience, and which had nothing to do with any of the subjects I’d studied.

University education is important, but I wish we took a moment to appreciate all the other ways in which someone might become accomplished and competent. It’s sad that Bumped doesn’t expand more here, because I would have liked to see more examples of people who, like Melody’s parents, went beyond the limits of an institution.

Or maybe that’s what Thumped will be about?

Melody asks Zen what he and Harmony talked about, and then there is some gentle flirting as he speculates about Harmony wanting him, and Melody making a show of how ridiculous that idea is. Then she says this:

“Maybe because she’s been told her whole life that anyone who doesn’t do things the Church way is going to burn in hell for all eternity? Because she’s been brought up to believe that it’s her mission in life to save as many of us sinners as possible? It would be a major failure if she couldn’t even convince her own identical twin sister to have God.”

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 100). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Well, you’d know, Melody. In fact, you know it all the more better because you too, were told certain things throughout your life, and you stick to your convictions even when those who brainwashed you changed their tune. The thing with the twins is that they’re painfully aware that they’re being influenced, but they refuse to change their modus operandi because, to their mind, it would be a betrayal of all their efforts and sacrifice to this point.

It’s like Divergent, but without the guns.

But the point in this chapter which I think merits the most discussion isn’t that simple surmise above, it’s this:

“Promise me, Zen, you won’t tell anyone at school about Harmony until I’m ready.”

“Mel . . .”

“PROMISE OR I’LL TELL EVERYONE YOU STILL SLEEP WITH BOO BOO.”

Boo Boo is Zen’s girlbot. By sixteen years old, any self-respecting guy has replaced—or at least supplemented—his artificial lovin’ with the real thing.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 101). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Let’s have a little breakdown of the “educational toys” kids in this universe have. Girls get “FunBumps” - pregnancy bellies complete with kicking and stretchmarks, for twins, singletons, split into weeks and chosen according to body type. Boys get “girlbots” (low capitals), which we can only assume is a more technically advanced version of a blow-up doll. And hey, you might say, it’s still progress - nowadays, those things are supposed to be only for losers who can’t get any. Sexual revolution!

I say: Girls need to pregg, boys need to fuck. Biological imperative being used to explain the stud/slut double standard.

A common explanation for the fact that men are allowed to fuck around is that it’s their biological imperative. Unlike women, they’re not encumbered by a nine month gestation period and are naturally driven to father as many children as possible. Which makes sense - after all, we evolve so slowly our genetic markup is still 99% similar to that of our prehistoric ancestors. In the grand scheme of things, our current civilisation and societal structure is a drop in a bucket.

BUT… I would also argue that things have changed somewhat since before the agricultural revolution. For one thing, life expectancy is considerably bigger. Medicine is fairly capable of keeping up with new strains of viruses and other ailments. And since men are not routinely going mammoth hunting or living under threat of a sabre-tooth tiger attack, I don’t really see a reason why we should operate under the biology logic. After all, we humans pride our ability to think rationally. It’s what sets us apart from animals.

(Also, in a world where more research is put forth to help erectile dysfunction than breastfeeding issues, I fail to see how we’re just keeping up with our biological imperatives.)

It will take our genes some time to adapt to this new environment. In fact, the Virus in Bumped can easily be seen as the next step in evolution - limiting birth rates to accommodate to this way of life.

Back to Bumped and “girlbots”, you see this as another example of trying to reduce pregnancy and birthing to a game - girls are taught to view their foetuses as a product or a toy, boys are taught to objectify girls (more), and everyone gets thrown in a giant soup of WTF!

Okay, let’s wrap this chapter up, I’m losing my patience for this week.

Zen tries to get Melody to think about Harmony’s ulterior motives, but Melody, keeping up with her “I-don’t-do-serious-discussion” character pedals off, leaving him behind.

Running from problems is a thing in this world too, I see.
 
Note: Image via Goodreads.

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