Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book Review: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 496
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Reader; 1 edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385733976
ISBN-13: 978-0385733977

Source: Bought at Borders
Cover: I'm just okay about this cover. Everything on it is relative to the story, even the black background but it doesn't make me want to buy it. The book blurb would have made me, if the author hadn't already.

First Sentence: "The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World."

The Mini-review: I'm a huge Gemma Doyle Trilogy fan so I was pretty skeptical about her doing a modern male character, even if it did look lovely and random. Honestly, I wasn't disappointed.

Here's the blurb from the book cover:

All sixteen-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 Gonzo, a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome who just might be the Viking god Balder, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America of smoothie-drinking happiness cults, parallel-universe-hopping physicists, mythic New Orleans jazz musicians, whacked-out television game shows, snow-globe vigilantes, and disenfranchised, fame-hungry teens into the heart of what matters most.
From New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray comes a dark comedic journey that poses the questions: Why are we here? What is real? What makes microwave popcorn so good? Why must we die? And how do we really learn to live?

The Review:
As I mentioned above, I was really skeptical to dive into this book. But, I'd been reading Libba Bray's blog a lot during the time she was editing this novel and got a lot of information about it before it came out so I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did.

Bray shines as the stoner/slacker Cam, wading his way through life. From the first sentence to the end this book is dripping with voice. Everything that is written shows us the world through Cam's eyes and it doesn't feel like a single observation is wasted. He's sarcastic, funny, and sometimes, surprisingly deep on his journey to live.

The plot too is pretty amazing. Everything is tied into a little neat bow by the end and it feels really good. The first hundred pages ease us into Cam, the remaining pages take us on his journey.

*****************SPOILER ALERT***************

The wonderful thing about this plot is it is truly left up to the imagination. It can be read two ways: 
  1. Cam is really going on this awesome journey across America
  2. Cam is in the hospital, dreaming about going on his journey
I read it the second way. Bray gives us this wonderful mix of events happening in Cam's head on the journey while blending in little snippets of what's actually happening around his physical body. (Or the other way around, if you read it way 1, in which Cam is imagining these scenes at the hospital while he is on his journey) Then, (if you read it like I did) she leaves the question up to you: does it cheapen it that the entire two week road trip never really happened? My answer is a resounding no. He learned, he loved, he lost. It doesn't matter how it comes, he got to experience it.

Also, everything has meaning in this novel. If you go back to the beginning, you can trace almost every bit of Cam's dream back to something he saw, experienced, or said before his disease. 
  • Dulcie was the leaning angel in the broken snow globe he and his sister gave his father for Christmas that Cam accidentally broke (and in doing so, set her free) when he went to see his father.
  • Balder stems both from Cam's mother and father. His mother told him stories of Norse mythology when he was little and his father showed him those picture of his students traveling around the world with a gnome.
  • The Copenhagen Interpretation (a band) mysteriously disappearing before Cam went under and reappearing in his dream connecting with Dr. X and Cam's supplied answer for the disappearance, time travel.
  • Dr. X himself is Cam's doctor, Dr. Xander.
*Just to name a small few*

Everything has a place and Bray works hard to make everything really count.

*******************End of Spoilers*********************

I loved Cam's character though being in his sarcastic, rather pessimistic head for almost 500 pages was a bit hard to stomach after a while. Also, I would have loved to run into Balder a little earlier on in the novel. He was by far my favorite character and really helped to refresh the story when it was dragging its feet.

There were a few places where the novel felt like it slowed to a complete stop. One of the main things I'd like to have seen cut was the Happiness Cult. They were funny and odd but it took up a lot of precious space and didn't really seem to help the plot along much. I understand that they were there to help Cam accept his disease and the way things had to be but it could have been done some other way in a shorter fashion.

All in all, I'd say that if you want a book that's a lot sarcastic, with hilariously funny quotes and characters, and a little bit tender right where it counts the most, this book is completely for you. It seems like a slow read at first but it delivers. Go for it! It's a definite read!  

And I have got to hand it to Libba Bray. She was dealing with some really complex theories and handled it like a pro. I might not understand a lot about alternate realities and string theory but Cam taught me enough to get by!


1 comment:

  1. Hi Amber, I found you through Hannah at My Book Journey. I actually wasn't a big fan of A Great and Terrible Beauty, but after reading your review above, I might like Going Bovine better. Thanks for the thoughtful review!
    I'm a new follower. You can visit me at my blog here:
    I look forward to more!


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