REVIEW: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

REVIEW: Going Bovine by Libba BrayGoing Bovine by Libba Bray
Published: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (2009), Hardcover, 496pg
Source: Library
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most. (from Amazon)

So I’d seen this book around on the blogs a lot in the past few months, but I never actually took a close look at the cover or any of the reviews. This lead to my believing Going Bovine was a teen book about a girl who’s getting fatter and probably spends the entire book whining about it (the gnome totally looks like a lipstick when you just glance at it from the corner of your eye). Actually, it’s about a dude who gets mad cow disease and then spends the book going on psychedelic adventures!

So, yeah. Totally different story from what I first thought, which I learned when I actually READ THE SUMMARY. Ha!

Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the start it seemed like a dark comedy sort of book– I mean, dying from mad cow disease? Totally tragic and yet…kind of ironically funny. (Maybe.) And it does have a lot of humorous things in it that made me laugh– the weird adventures Cameron goes on are both whimsical and hilarious. But it’s not only about the comedy! It’s also about human relationships, and about your relationship with yourself. And it’s also about love, and there’s even a satire about modern American culture with the cult that only lets its members think positive things (and they only drink smoothies, and they bowl a lot!), though a lot of the deepers aspects of the book tend to get smothered under the tripping-on-acid narrative.

You can’t trust Cameron’s narrative as being what actually is going on because there’s lots of flashes– TRIPPY flashes– where he’s in a hospital bed. And then there’s that whole question of “what is reality,” and if Cameron THINKS he’s at a snowglobe factory fighting evil snowglobe dudes, then it’s a valid form of reality and WHATEVER. Basically you spend the entire book wondering if things are real or not real, and it’s a very Matrix-y sort of book, actually. And! I liked that even when you’re questioning the story’s reality it’s still very obvious that even if Cameron ISN’T fighting evil snowglobe-makers he’s still going through a sort of spiritual rebirth, where he’s improving his inner person even as his outer person is dying.

I really liked Going Bovine. The ending– without giving away any spoilers although I suppose it’s pretty obvious by now– is surprisingly realistic although I did NOT want it to happen. I cried. Really.

The steady decline into a trippy-er and trippy-er narrative was really fun, although it’s got an edge of sadness to it because of the whole “my brain is decaying and making everything trippy” thing. I had a fun time reading Going Bovine, and now I really want to read more of Libba Bray’s books!

Read: April 23-24, 2010

Random sidenote, but I LOVE Libba Bray’s website! It’s stylish without clogging up my internet tubes. Very cool.

Also, if you go to the Amazon page you can see her do a video about her book while dressed like a cow. 😀

7 thoughts on “REVIEW: Going Bovine by Libba Bray”

  1. But is it too trippy? To where you have a hard time following the flow of the book? Often when I read a book where some of the events are not really happening, I have a hard time distinguishing, and then I feel stupid and have to hurl the book across the room.

    1. Nah, it’s only trippy in the way that dreams are, when weird things happen and it makes sense in the DREAM but not much in reality. It’s easy to follow along with Cameron and his delusions (or NON-delusions, depending on how you think of reality). 😀

  2. I’m so glad you liked it! (I cried too.)

    The rest of Libba Bray’s books are very different from this one, I think. Thus far, this one’s my favorite.

  3. Agreed! I loved it. The ending didn’t make me cry, but did leave me really depressed. It (the ending) does, at least, heavily question and press against the book’s themes of death, reality and purpose of life. After I finished the book at 2 am, I was up for a good half hour staring at the ceiling wondering what the purpose of living was.
    But it is a pretty rocking rollercoaster of a book. From the funny parts to the saddenings to the downright crazy, it’s all one big ride that somehow all pieces together at the end.

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