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Going Bovine Hardcover – September 22, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385733976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385733977
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—In this ambitious novel, Cameron, a 16-year-old slacker whose somewhat dysfunctional family has just about given up on him, as perhaps he himself has, when his diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, "mad cow" disease, reunites them, if too late. The heart of the story, though, is a hallucinatory—or is it?—quest with many parallels to the hopeless but inspirational efforts of Don Quixote, about whom Cameron had been reading before his illness. Just like the crazy—or was he?—Spaniard, Cam is motivated to go on a journey by a sort of Dulcinea. His pink-haired, white-winged version goes by Dulcie and leads him to take up arms against the Dark Wizard and fire giants that attack him intermittently, and to find a missing Dr. X, who can both help save the world and cure him. Cameron's Sancho is a Mexican-American dwarf, game-master hypochondriac he met in the pot smokers' bathroom at school who later turns up as his hospital roommate. Bray blends in a hearty dose of satire on the road trip as Cameron leaves his Texas deathbed—or does he?—to battle evil forces with a legendary jazz horn player, to escape the evil clutches of a happiness cult, to experiment with cloistered scientists trying to solve the mysteries of the universe, and to save a yard gnome embodying a Viking god from the clutches of the materialistic, fame-obsessed MTV-culture clones who shun individual thought. It's a trip worth taking, though meandering and message-driven at times. Some teens may check out before Cameron makes it to his final destination, but many will enjoy asking themselves the questions both deep and shallow that pop up along the way.—Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA END

Review

Starred Review, Booklist, August 1, 2009:
"An unforgettable, nearly indefinable fantasy adventure."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 3, 2009:
"Bray's surreal humor may surprise fans."

More About the Author

author spotlight
"I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already."-Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the author of the acclaimed A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What is it about writing an author bio that gives me that deer-in-headlights feeling? It's not exactly like I'm going to say "I was born in Alabama..." and somebody's going to jump up and snarl, "Oh yeah? Prove it!" At least I hope not.

I think what gets me feeling itchy is all that emphasis on the facts of a life, while all the juicy, relevant, human oddity stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I could tell you the facts-I lived in Texas for most of my life; I live in New York City with my husband and five-year-old son now; I have freckles and a lopsided smile; I'm allergic to penicillin.

But that doesn't really give you much insight into me. That doesn't tell you that I stuck a bead up my nose while watching TV when I was four and thought I'd have to go to the ER and have it cut out. Or that I once sang a punk version of "Que Sera Sera" onstage in New York City. Or that I made everyone call me "Bert" in ninth grade for no reason that I can think of. See what I mean?

God is in the details. So with that in mind, here is my bio. Sort of.

TWENTY-ONE THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME
by Libba Bray

1. I lived in Texas until I was 26 years old, then I moved to New York City with $600.00 in my shoe ('cause muggers won't take it out of your shoe, y'know . . . riiiiight . . .) and a punchbowl (my grandmother's gift) under my arm. I ended up using the punchbowl box as an end table for two years.

2. My dad was a Presbyterian minister. Yes, I am one of those dreaded P.K.s-Preacher's Kids. Be afraid. Be very afraid . . .

3. The first story I ever wrote, in Mrs. McBee's 6th grade English class, was about a girl whose family is kidnapped and held hostage by a murderous lot of bank robbers who intend to kill the whole family-including the dog-until the 12-year-old heroine foils the plot and saves the day. It included colored pencil illustrations of manly-looking, bearded criminals smoking, and, oblivious to the fact that The Beatles had already sort of laid claim to the title, I called my novel, HELP. My mom still has a copy. And when I do something she doesn't like, she threatens to find it.

4. My favorite word is "redemption." I like both its meaning and the sound. My least favorite word is "maybe." "Maybe" is almost always a "no" drawn out in cruel fashion.

5. My three worst habits are overeating, self-doubt, and the frequent use of the "f" word.

6. The three things I like best about myself are my sense of humor, my ability to listen, and my imagination.

7. I have an artificial left eye. I lost my real eye in a car accident when I was eighteen. In fact, I had to have my entire face rebuilt because I smashed it up pretty good. It took six years and thirteen surgeries. However, I did have the pleasure of freezing a plastic eyeball in an ice cube, putting it in a friend's drink, ("Eyeball in your highball?") and watching him freak completely. Okay, so maybe that's not going down on my good karma record. But it sure was fun.

8. In 7th grade, my three best friends and I dressed up as KISS and walked around our neighborhood on Halloween. Man, we were such dorks.

9. I once spent New Year's Eve in a wetsuit. I'd gone to the party in a black dress that was a little too tight (too many holiday cookies) and when I went to sit down, the dress ripped up the back completely. Can we all say, mortified? The problem was, my friends were moving out of their house-everything was packed and on a truck-and there was nothing I could put on . . . but a wetsuit that they still had tacked to the wall. I spent the rest of the party maneuvering through throngs of people feeling like a giant squid.

10. I got married in Florence, Italy. My husband and I were in love but totally broke, so we eloped and got married in Italy, where he was going on a business trip. We had to pull a guy off the street to be our witness. It was incredibly romantic. Florence is still one of my favorite cities in the world.

11. I often write in longhand and type it into the computer later, editing as I go. Sitting in my favorite coffeehouse with a new notebook and a hot cup of java is my idea of heaven.

12. I'm related to Davy Crockett on my mom's side. Honest.

13. I grew up doing theatre and spent a long time as a playwright. I still think very visually when I write.

14. Some of my favorite movies of all time (subject to change when I think of other movies I love) are All About Eve, Brazil, Blade Runner, Spinal Tap, Citizen Kane, Harold & Maude, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, and probably a million more that I can't think of right now. I have never made it through The Wizard of Oz without crying. Not once.

15. Naming my favorite books feels like naming a favorite child-impossible. But here's my list of some Y.A. books I love as of 4:03pm today. Tithe by Holly Black. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (not really Y.A. but I read it when I was 16 and it rocked my world). Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's what's on my nightstand to read: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Acceleration by Graham McNamee. The Literary Opus of Daniel Elam by Daniel Elam. By the Time You Finish this Book You Might Be Dead by Aaron Zimmerman.

16. I love to be scared. Not "hey, I think I smell smoke . . ." scared, but creepy, paranoid, what's-that-out-there-in-the-dark, ghost story scared. It's no surprise that I was the girl who got invited to the slumber parties because I could be counted on to tell a tale to scare the bejesus out of you.

17. In homage to a book I just read entitled, FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART, I submit: The first boy who broke my heart (age 6) didn't want to sit next to me because I'd wet my pants in reading circle once and he thought I was gross. Damn my small bladder! The second boy who broke my heart (age 16) was a drummer with a band (the start of a trend, folks...) and he threw me over for a really cool chick I couldn't even bring myself to hate. The third boy who broke my heart (ages 20--24, ay yi yi . . .) was a strapping hunk of bodaciousness with the mind of Einstein. We had the exact same birthday, same year and everything. So the time he forgot to wish me a happy birthday was kind of the beginning of the end, I think. The fourth boy who broke my heart (age 25) was also a drummer. I had to stop with the drummers. The fifth boy . . . well, I married him, and if he breaks my heart, I'm going to burn all his favorite, rare import punk vinyl in the middle of the living room, so he's been warned.

18. I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already.

19. My Pennsylvania Dutch great-great-great grandmother was supposedly a psychic who could see and speak to the dead. Sort of a witch, I guess. Her husband was an undertaker, and she would have these visions of someone bringing in a string of a particular size (people were measured for their coffins in this way) and it would come true. Creepy stuff, but fascinating.

20. If I were stuck on a deserted island, the five indispensable CDs I'd take would be London Calling by the Clash, Quadrophenia by The Who, Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits, To Venus and Back by Tori Amos, and Elvis Costello's Greatest Hits.

21. I hate doughnuts. Weird but true.

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Customer Reviews

I really think there could have been more done to create a stronger character -- and a stronger book overall.
Bella
If I'm reading a boring book that I want to end very badly, and lined up is a book that's probably going to take a while to get into, that book goes by the wayside.
endlesswonderofreading
I loved Libba Bray from Gemma Doyle and while this was a complete 180 from those books, she is an extremely talented writer.
B.E. Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
GOING BOVINE, Libba Bray's surprising and unconventional new novel, is one of those books that seems impossible to explain. Doing so, however, is my job, so here it goes. Cameron Smith is the kind of kid you probably never noticed during high school (unless you, like him, were lighting up joints in the school bathroom). He is scraping by in his classes, not interested in college, and suffers from constant and disappointing comparisons to his perky, preppy twin sister Jenna. Basically, Cameron is on a slow but uncontrollable skid to nowhere.

That is, until his recent bouts of uncontrolled behavior and terrifying visions are revealed to be caused not by drug use (as his parents suspect) but by Creutzfeldt-Jakob's, better known as mad cow disease. Basically, the tissue in his brain is breaking down, turning into a spongy mess (and apparently also letting in armor-clad wizards and threatening pillars of flame). Pretty soon, Cameron is finding himself poked and prodded, stuffed into hospital beds and down MRI tubes, with a terminal diagnosis and the horrible realization that he might be about to die without ever having lived.

Guided only by cryptic clues from an elusive (and strangely attractive) punk rock angel named Dulcie and accompanied by a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo, Cameron sets off on a road trip/wild goose chase to find the enigmatic Dr. X, a physicist who disappeared as if into thin air years ago. According to Dulcie, Dr. X holds both the potential to destroy the entire world and the ability to cure Cameron's disease.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bella on October 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a big fan of the Gemma Doyle trilogy, I was excited when I found out that Libba Bray was writing another novel.
I read the sample chapter on her website a couple of months ago, and I admit I was a little worried -- sure, Bray could very well write in the voice of a troubled girl growing up in the Victorian era quite well, but could she handle a teenaged boy?

Well, after reading the book, I learned that she was able to write in such a voice quite well -- though I think perhaps she could have toned it down a bit (ie, using words like suckage, throwing in "somewhat slang" when perhaps it wasn't necessary -- though, of course, I am not a teenaged boy; maybe they really do talk/think that way?)

Going Bovine was extremely entertaining. I really felt myself caring for Cameron, even if he was sort of the loser type. I especially enjoyed the interlocking bits of reality among all of the chaos in Cameron's head -- they were very sobering, and at times, very touching (ie, when Cameron's mother is at his bedside, and he squeezes her hand to let her know that he can hear her)

The ending, naturally, posed a lot of questions similar to those that you'd have after watching the Wizard of Oz -- was anything real? Cameron certainly seemed to be "thinking" clearly throughout his entire adventure, so it sort of makes you wonder what the story is with that -- it just can't simply be that everything was a delusion! (And whatever happened to Gonzo?!)

I do wish Cam's relationship with Dulcie had been formed a little better -- it was missing that quality that say, Gemma and Kartik had in their relationship. I feel like I really didn't know Dulcie much at all -- sure, she seemed sweet, but who is she? What is her character like?
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jack Baker on January 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Going Bovine is written from the viewpoint of Cameron Smith, a decidedly average high school student. His life is pretty boring at the start of the book: he's a social misfit with an incredibly popular twin sister, his parents are both teachers who can't understand why he's underachieving, and he has no friends aside from a few stoners and the clerk of the record shop he frequents. His life changes when he starts having strange visions and begins having difficulty controlling his body. Cameron learns that he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease, for which there is no cure. While in the hospital, Cameron is visited by an angel with pink hair and combat boots named Dulcie. Dulcie tells him that his disease has been caused by a wizard and that the same forces destroying his brain will also destroy the world. Dulcie tells him that if he can find Dr. X, he can be cured and save the world in the process.

On his quest, Cameron encounters all sorts of odd people: Gonzo, a Mexican-American dwarf from his high school, a garden gnome who's really a Norse god, a happiness cult, a New Orleans jazz musician, physicists, an Inuit rock band, and others who either help or hinder his mission. His journey takes him from his Texas hometown to New Orleans and Florida.

Bray gives Cameron a very believable voice and has created a pop culture manifesto with the crazy world he inhabits. Going Bovine is packed full of fun weirdness, but is also a soul searching journey as Cameron discovers that there is more to living than simply being alive. One of the best books I've read in quite a while, I would recommend Going Bovine to anyone, despite its being billed as a young adult novel.
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