Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Cameron is bored and irritated by pretty much everything.  He has no real friends, he doesn’t care about school and he’s indifferent to his vague mother and his barely attentive father; his twin sister is so far above him in the social hierarchy of their high school that she barely acknowledges his existence.   He’s completely numbed himself to the world around him; you wouldn’t say he’s a happy guy.  So when he finds out that he has an incurable disease – Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, otherwise known as mad cow disease – even he’s surprised to realize that he doesn’t want to die.   And when a pink-haired angel in combat boots tells him there’s a cure – provided he can find a missing scientist who seems to have, um, slipped through a wormhole in the space-time continuum – Cameron is willing to take the risk – and take the road trip.  But time is running out, and with the all-powerful Wizard of Reckoning on his tail, it seems like Cameron is always one step away from the end.

This is not a book for the faint of heart.  We’re talking everything from physics to the spring break party house, from New Orleans jazz greats to punk rock angels, a long, strange trip (in a classic Cadillac) that tests the boundaries of reality and dream.  It’s funny, but it’s a dark comedy, to be sure; Bray never shies away from the hard stuff, and one way or another, Cameron’s journey has to end.

Libba Bray is best known for her Gemma Doyle books, a  series of supernatural romances set in the late 19th century at a private school for girls.  A lot of guys might not have heard of her, and a lot of girls might think they won’t be interested in a book about a guy – especially a guy like Cameron.  I admit it – I thought the same thing.  But I was wrong!  I really enjoyed this book.

It’s pretty common to make a movie that’s “loosely based on” a classic work of literature – for instance, the movie Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma.  You could say that Going Bovine is loosely based on a number of classics, from much-referenced Don Quixote to the Wizard of Oz to Alice in Wonderland.   Like those books, it’s smart, funny, and often strange, even surreal (Cameron’s friends include a death-obsessed, gaming dwarf and a Norse god imprisoned in the body of a yard gnome; this is not your ordinary buddy story!).  You might find yourself wondering what’s real and what’s not, from time to time.  But in the long run, this is a road trip story, a story about friendship and family, about love and loss and change.  And it might be a cliche, but in this case it’s true:  I laughed, I cried, and in the end, I loved Going BovineSchool Library Journal recommendation: Grade 9+


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