Teen Book Review: "Going Bovine"
What in the world do the song “It’s A Small World After All,” an Eskimo band, snow globes and mad cow disease have in common?
They are all parts of the latest winner of the Printz Award for outstanding young adult fiction, Going Bovine by Libba Bray. This book is full of what can only be described as weird and wonderful, from the author’s laugh-out loud acknowledgments to the very last page.
Cameron Smith is a slacker and a stoner. He does not want to do anything that could even remotely be called living, and it doesn’t want anything to do with him. That is, until he contracts mad cow disease, which eats holes in victims' brains, causes them to see enough freaky hallucinations to fill a sci-fi channel movie and kills them quickly. Cameron wants to live instead of die, and there just might be a cure. A punk rock angel named Dulcie (who may or may be a hallucination) tells him to find Dr. X, the only person who may have a cure for him due to his travels in parallel worlds. Along with Gonzo, a dwarf classmate who loves video games but is a hypochondriac, Cameron sets out on a crazy road trip guided by random occurrences and tabloid stories, picking up a lawn gnome that may be the Viking god Balder. Cameron might find his cure, but he’ll also find that the journey for the cure may be what really matters in the end.
This book is jam-packed with action and the absurd. Bovine is filled with parodies of pop culture, but the parodies are of the classic aspects of pop culture, such as Star Wars, so they will stand the test of time and not date the book. Cameron’s voice is raw and powerful; he swears when he’s angry, and laughs like a maniac when he’s happy, and readers will feel these emotions right along with him because of the strength of his character. The story itself is very nonsensical, with B-movie grade villains, crazy satire of modern-day teen culture, and a happiness cult with disturbing powers.
Because no one but Cameron can see Dulcie, and because he seems to be experiencing a terminal stay in the hospital whenever he falls asleep on his road trip, readers will speculate along with Cameron about which parts of the story are real and which are fake, leading to lively discussions. Most of the places Cameron and Gonzo stop are full of detail; readers will feel the swing of New Orleans in Mardi Gras along with the magic of Disney World and humdrum life of small-town Texas.
Going Bovine is recommended for mid- to late-teen readers. Check it out, along with other books by Libba Bray, at Northeast Library or any of the DC Public Library branches today.
--by Brandon Digwood