Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. 480 pp. ISBN 9780385904117

Escaping his hospital bed to travel cross country with his hypochondriac mama's boy roommate and save the world -- this is the mission presented to Cameron by his very own punk angel.

Fantasy, Realistic Fiction

Cameron is a sixteen-year-old who really is not making much of his life, and whose only real passion is listening to music.  Suddenly, he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob, or "mad cow" disease, landing him in the hospital.  A hypochondriac dwarf roommate named Gonzo then moves in, and he and Cameron -- encouraged by the angel Dulcie who has begun visiting Cameron -- embark on a road trip to find the man who purportedly has the cure for mad cow disease and also save the world from the evil wizard and fire giants who have also begun appearing to Cameron.  During this trip, which parallels Don Quixote in many ways, Cameron and Gonzo have various adventures at stops as varied as a New Orleans jazz club, the headquarters of a happiness cult, and a spring break party spot in Florida.  Along the way, they take on a third traveling partner, a living breathing lawn gnome/Norse god.  By the end of the journey, Cameron must use the strength and wisdom he has gained to face the dark forces.

I absolutely love this novel.  It is completely zany fun (you have to read it just for Cameron's hysterically funny visit to the "Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack-n-Bowl" alone) and at the same time conveys some earnest messages about the importance of connection with others and jumping right into life with purpose and gusto.  Cameron is a fully-fleshed, entirely believable character, as is his emotional growth by the end of the story.  As the story is picaresque, it is composed of several distinct adventures, yet all are pulled together cohesively by Cameron's ultimate quest to save the world and himself.  Make sure to get your hands on this thought-provoking read as soon as possible.  What some may find controversial is the novel's subject matter of terminal illness and some language.

This book could be very helpful to terminally ill teens, but also to any teen who is socially isolated.

It sounded like a lot of fun and unlike anything I'd ever read before, and also won the Print Award in 2010.

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