Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Review by Derek, from MD

Libba Bray’s Going Bovine starts with main character Cameron’s vivid memory of his near-death experience at Disney World (who knew that ‘A Small World’ could be so perilous?). And then, lightning fast, before you know it, you’re hooked. Going Bovine is a part-fantasy, part-love story, mostly-tribute to the teenage way-of-life. This is because Cameron is, without a doubt, the epitome of a teen. He says what all teens want to say (100% sarcasm, 100% of the time), does what all teens want to do (nothing), and has a special flair for apathy and disobeying authority and social convention. It’s fun and liberating to see Cameron be such a teenager of the kind we all may have within us. Early on the reader discovers that Cameron, being the ideal teen that he is, doesn’t have much going for him. Despite being smart, he’s seriously lacking in the grade department. He’s got a job at Buddha Burger (which he hates), and Staci Johnson, the hottest girl in the school, doesn’t know that he exists (well aside from when she’s humiliating him). And as if it were not enough, Cameron finds out that he’s going "crazy." No really: he’s going crazy. After he starts seeing things (that other people don’t) and having dangerous run-ins with wacky creatures whose existence is questionable, the doctors diagnose him with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease.The doctors tell him that there are these little things called prions that are eating away at his brain. And that there’s no cure. And that he’s going to die. But then he’s visited by this punk-rock angel named Dulcie, and she gives him an important piece of information: that there’s a small, dim, so-unlikely-that-you’d-have-to-be-crazy-to-believe-it chance that he might live after all. It’s just that he has to go on a wild trip across the country (with this totally weird and everything-phobic dwarf named Gonzo who occupies the bed next to him) to find the elusive Dr. X. And if Cameron succeeds, then he can save himself…and the world. A pretty tall order for a guy who’s currently stuck in St. Jude’s and who couldn’t save his way out of a paper bag. And is apparently going crazy. Going Bovine is the story of Cameron’s journey, and of how he discovers that life isn’t so bad after all. And that it’s actually pretty amazing, and most definitely worth living (if only he can find Dr. X in time!). Going Bovine is outrageous and impossible, and just so real at the same time. Even though at times you feel like you’re actually going crazy from reading this book (in a good way), it really speaks to teenage kind. Even if you don’t have Mad Cow Disease, it is strangely moving and completely relatable. Their escapades are fantastically compelling, and you just wish that you could somehow be transported into Cameron’s broken down Caddy so that you could experience the fun too. Any teen looking for a taste of adventure with a little side of life wisdom (hold the mayo) must pick up a copy of this book. Author Kelly Link deems it “The kind of book you take to college, in the hope that your roommate will turn out to have packed their copy, too.” Going Bovine is a sure-to-be classic. A four out of four, for sure.

Posted on 2010-03-01