This was definitely a book I needed to read slowly, to savor each moment. McCafferty really knows how to write dialogue and character so well! And I love her other books that started with Sloppy Firsts. I got this one the day it came out, but it somehow got vacuumed up into my never-ending TBR piles. But, the sequel comes out in a few weeks, and I remembered to read this one!
I’m so glad this book was not forgotten. McCafferty’s style reminds me so much of Libba Bray’s, and that is a high compliment coming from me! The best thing about this book was I kept forgetting it was a dystopia; it felt so real and there were no a-typical dystopia “I finally get that the world is awful” moments until the end, by which point I was just so sucked up in the awesomeness of these characters that I had to remind myself what kind of story it really was.
It’s about Melody and Harmony (long-lost twin sisters) connecting for the first time. Melody and Harmony live in a world where no one past the age of 18 can make babies. And girls, once they hit puberty, are paid to conceive and give birth to babies for the highest bidder. Melody was the first girl in her school to go pro and sign a contract with a couple who wants her to give birth to their baby. The only issue is that the couple is taking its sweet time to find Melody the perfect guy to sleep with. And while Melody is waiting, other girls are going on to baby number two. And all of the girls who sign these contracts are set for life money-wise.
Harmony grows up in Goodside, a place that sounds a lot like an Amish colony. There’s little to no technology. Any form of touching with anyone but your husband is considered sin. And girls tend to be arranged into marriage as early as 13 so they can start doing what God wants them to do: make babies. At first, I couldn’t stand Harmony’s character because every other word out of her mouth was about God or Jesus and how she wanted to give God to people and convince her sister to move back to Goodside with her.
And it was so easy to start feeling like the whole teen girls selling their uteruses thing was normal. McCafferty wrote this in such a way where it was almost hard for me to see this as wrong. I was getting sucked into the propaganda as much as the main characters were! And I’m not used to this happening! I definitely liked Melody more to begin with because of this. It made sense that this is what the world would come to when adults couldn’t give birth any more. And I liked that teen girls seemed to be so valued in society.
Yet, as the book went on, the more I realized how messed up things were. For starters, Melody is clearly in love with her best friend, but since he’s short she can’t get involved with him. No couple wants short babies. Guys are all mixed up with drugs to make them taller and stronger. There’s group sex parties where the intent is for girls to get pregnant all at the same time. There’s drugs going around that make you more attracted to your paid sexual partner. There’s stores where young teens can buy baby humps. And the advertisments, slang, culture, and even the parents of all the main characters are so wrapped up in promoting teen pregnancy and making teen pregnancy sexy and even the norm.
It almost makes sense that the religious zealots take such a firm, opposing argument to the way the Otherside works. The story really gets interesting when Melody’s couple finally pick a famous guy to have sex with her, and the guy thinks Harmony (the religious twin) is the one he needs to get pregnant. There’s romance. There’s pissed off husbands. There’s great twin humor. There’s plenty of propaganda from both sides of the spectrum. There’s evil parents. There’s sex, a ton of teen pregnancy, and a lot of heartache. One girl looses it completely after her pregnancy and decides she can’t give up her baby. So, she’s institutionalized. Most girls never get to see the babies they give birth to. Another girl almost dies in childbirth at 16. And a lot of tough themes are addressed in this one.
It took me just a little bit of time to officially dive into the book. I had to fully immerse myself in the language and get used to all the baby-promoting before I really understood what was happening. And I liked that. The author didn’t make it easy for you to understand immediately or pick sides immediately either. The best part is when you realize how rebellious both twins are, how neither one (in their own way) will conform to what everyone else wants and expects of them. They both feel that sleeping with someone you don’t love is wrong. And it does take Melody a little longer to come to this realization, but she does it all the same. And you can’t help but want more girls to come to this same conclusion.
I loved the drama! I loved the dialogue and the culture! McCafferty developed an almost brand new consumerism language. And it was just so believable! It’s a book that makes you think about how much you take for granted and makes you ask, “what should I be questioning right now?” Each twin was so different and both had such a unique voice to them. I loved both of them. I loved the best friend! And I really just think this was a fantastic novel. I can’t wait for book 2. This so gets a 10/10 from me!