When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.
Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.
When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.
I thought Wither, the first book in the Chemical Garden series, was pretty decent, so I had high hopes for this one. The premise is similar, but instead of people dying of a virus in the early years of adulthood, they become sterile. I know in theory that two books about a similar subject means absolutely nothing in terms of how enjoyable or well-written they are, but what can I say? I was optimistic. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)
Because reproduction isn’t possible after people turn 18, girls from 12-18 are popping out babies left and right, sometimes as “amateurs” and sometimes as “professionals.” The professionals are basically surrogates, but more . . . businesslike. Contracts and test scores and all of that. They look down on the amateurs, who are generally less desirable than their well-paid counterparts.
Against this backdrop we meet Harmony and Melody (apparently their mom was hepped up on goofballs when they were born), twins separated at birth and adopted into two very different lifestyles — churchy and nonchurchy, to keep it simple. Melody is a professional who is more than ready to be “bumped” (and needs to be soon, according to the terms of her contract). When Harmony discovers that she has a twin sister, she flees churchytown (Goodside) and shows up at Melody’s house, hoping to a) convince her sister that she’s living a wicked life, 2) convert her sister and z) persuade her to live in churchytown. Melody is like nuh-UH, Harmony is hurt and confused, then there’s this big WOMP WOMP moment of mistaken identity, and things get messy.
Look. It’s not all bad. Harmony and Melody (I cringe every time) actually turn out to be semi-admirable in the fact that they stand up for what they come to believe in. Even so, their emotions are only surface-level and there isn’t as much tension as you’d expect; in spite of the fact that there’s a sequel, the relationship between the girls seems a bit too neat and tidy for me. Aside form that, most of the time I found their characters (and most of the others) pretty predictable and worthy of my eye-rolling. To her credit, McCafferty just MIGHT be an amazing writer. She seems to have captured the ridiculous colloquialisms of trendy 16 year olds — and even imagined some new ones that have a possibility of popping up in another 15 years or so. Gotta give her credit for that.
The plot has such potential, but just doesn’t pan out in a way that I find satisfying at all. The only reason I finished it was because it proved to be a pretty quick read, thank goodness.