Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The TorchBearers' Book Club: Bumped chapters 15-16

Like I said, I’m back my lovelies!

And isn’t it a serendipituous turn of events, because today, we’re talking about commitment.

Quick recap of the story so far: Identical twins Melody and Harmony reunite after the latter seeks out the former. Melody is a professional surrogette, a woman paid to deliver healthy babies to wealthy couples. Harmony was raised in a strict religious community that tries to marry off everyone at 13 and have them pushing babies out as soon as possible. The two girls are critical of each other’s lifestyle, but after getting off to a bumpy (hah!) start, they grow more tolerant of each other, especially when it becomes clear that they, for one reason or another, aren’t keeping up with the image of what they should be doing.

Harmony’s chapters for the next section are rather short, possibly because there isn’t a lot to exposit about. We learn what we suspected so far: that, after Lib mistook her for Melody, she set out to impersonate her twin and prevent her from fulfilling her contract. This may seem like an unnecessarily cruel thing to do, especially after Harmony witnesses first-hand how important the contract is to Melody – having been raised to do THIS ONE THING, the girl is adamant of going through with it, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.

At the same time, Harmony isn’t completely committed to her cause, or at least the one she was given – to obey her husband and birth children. We know, from various hints that Harmony’s first engagement fell through because of something she did, and that, despite the fact that this second one is her last chance, she has broken the rules to seek out her identical twin. She’s taking a huge risk with Melody – she doesn’t know if her sister would be welcoming, accommodating, or even pleasant with her. For all Harmony knows, Melody would call the police or the Smiths as soon as she saw her twin, and yet she went through with her plan anyway.

“THAT’S MY GIRL! I don’t want another day to go by, Miss Melody Mayflower. Let’s deliver what the Jaydens are SO WILLING to pay SO MUCH for. This is your future we’re talking about!” He stopped, assumed a more serious tone. “You do realise your life is about to change.”

My life already has.

“Once this news hits the MiNet, optics are going to go OFF THE SPRING. Your pregg is going to be famous. Morning sickness is NOTHING compared to how green with envy they’ll be when they hear who’s bumping you…”

McCafferty, Megan, Bumped, p.102, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

Lib, as we find out, loves to sugar coat what he’s doing. He and everyone else in this society pressure young girls to succeed (aka have babies) through any means possible – emotional manipulation, financial coercion, and of course, the honey to all honeys, the promise of a bright future, and fame. It’s no coincidence he’s busting out the positive enforcement now, when it’s a sealed deal, but recall how Melody’s parents were behaving a few short chapters ago when they thought their daughter was wasting her time and they would be forced to pay back the money they stole (yes, stole) from her.

Also, I’d like to point out that as far as positive reinforcement goes, this is a pretty lame one. So far in this book we’ve been assured that teenage girls are the most important people in the world, but the only mentioned celebrities are the Toxin models like Jondoe. There is exactly one famous teenage girl, and the only reason she’s famous is because she’s managed to deliver eleven (eleven!) babies so far. Jondoe bumped countless girls over his career, but how many of them are famous now? How many have been, or will be mentioned in this book?

None. In fact, the only thing that will set Melody apart from all of them is when she does something completely different from the rest, but Lib doesn’t know that yet. Neither would Melody, if it was Melody who got that message. The only reason Lib has to say these things is because he recognised, on some level, that what he does is nefarious, and he’s trying to make himself feel better for it.

Oh, well. I guess it’s for the best that Melody didn’t get that message.

We cut to Melody’s POV and are immediately treated to her complaining about how she hates riding her bike to school, but does so for appearances sake. Nice! We’re also given another little titbit about Melody’s life prior to Malia and Harmony – she and her friends used to bike together and make plans for the future, but then Shoko sold out and Malia had her breakdown.

Well, she doesn’t put it quite like that, but my new Kindle won’t allow me to copy/paste, so there’s that.

I do feel sorry for Melody, though. It’s obvious she doesn’t enjoy this state of affairs, and why should she – all her values are brought into question, and she is completely without her own support network. In fact, her support network’s many failings is part of the reason why she’s having such an intense crisis of conscious right now.

Anyway, here’s a nice little feminist segue.

I don’t hold a grudge against Shoko. Really. She’s been an awesome president. There’s a lot of tensions between amateurs and pros at school. Like, amateurs look down on pros for bumping with strangers, not boyfriends. Or they pity us for missing out on the partner-swapping fun at massSEX parties. And pros say amateurs are just jealous because they aren’t good enough to pregg for profit. Or, even if they were, they wouldn’t have the willpower to keep their legs closed until it was time to fulfil their contractual obligations. This sort of cattiness threatened to destroy the Alliance before it even began. But as a rare amateur turned pro, Shoko served as an inspiration and intermediary between both sides.

McCafferty, Mehan, Bumped, p.104, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

Huzzah for Shoko!

No, really, how many of you read this and thought, damn, it’s feminism and intersectionality all over again. We have a group of women who technically have the same goals, but let other ideological and personal prejudices get in the way of progress. Look at the word choice – look down, pity, jealous, wouldn’t have the willpower to keep their legs closed. What kind of language is that? Catty, obviously, but also very undermining and mean-spirited. The girls flinging those insults must know that, on some level the other side must believe them, otherwise, they wouldn’t be insults. In spite of their bravado, the amateurs must worry on some level for appearing easy or not good enough; just like pros might wonder, in their innermost hearts, if things would be better if they approached sex as something fun and pleasant, not as means to an end.

It’s terrible. These girls are all Melodies and Harmonies, clutching at their own beliefs and lashing out against anyone who might criticise them, when in fact, they would easily help each other out. It’s also heart-breaking because this thing is obviously a society-wide problem, and it takes super-special individuals like Shoko, who are neither too combative nor too pliant, to bring them together.

It’s even more heart-breaking because Shoko is obviously not an experiment that can be duplicated. It becomes clear when we meet Ventura Vida, Melody’s rival.

Ventura is easily what Melody’s ideal self is – a girl with an amazing contract, who scored an amazing donor, and who is easily liked and supported  by everyone. Ventura is living the dream as this world sells it, and she’s not shy about giving Melody hell for it, by deploying missiles from both sides: Poor Melody is unpregged, clearly she’s not good enough, so why not settle for a boy who isn’t confirmed to have any sort of romantic interest in her.

Shoko steps in and diffuses the situation with a joke. Huzzah for Shoko again! Then she and Melody have a little talk about commitment.

Shoko says that she doesn’t believe Ventura should be the future of the ProAm Alliance, but that she will be. It’s an interesting distinction, but not a wholly unexpected one – oftentimes, decisions are made not by the best people for the job simply because the best people for the job lack something in people skills to make them an endearing leader.

Melody may be better suited to be president of the Alliance – she’s clearly had a reality check that would stop her from, say, coercing girls into pregging like her parents or Lib coerced her – but that same reality check makes her depressed and unpleasant to be around. Ventura may have her head in the clouds, but she speaks to the girls on the same level as Shoko – as one of them. The other girls are more willing to listen to someone who understands them personally, and while Melody’s lack of experience is no fault of hers, she still loses on that front.

The truth is, the ProAm alliance doesn’t just have to support girls regardless of how they pregg – they also need to support them regardless of whether they choose to pregg or not. I’ll expand on that later, but this is what truly needs to be said about commitment – it needs to be something you well and truly believe in.

Melody would make a good president when she convinces the Alliance, and herself, that pregging isn’t the only way to go, and that being happy is what matters.

It’s the conclusion Harmony has already reached, and why she’s doing something that would devastate her twin – because she knows that you don’t realise what you want until stripped of all your delusions.

Damn, I like this book sometimes.
Note: Image via Goodreads.

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