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Going Bovine Hardcover – September 22, 2009
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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
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."
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Loved it just like her other work.
Going Bovine is a supremely fun and enjoyable book with unforgettable characters and profound insight into life. It's a fresh and singular take on Don Quixote -- who also had hallucinations, of course -- and Sancho Panza, where every signpost along the road is significant. It's elegantly structured, and uses string theory to explore themes of love, friendship, and what makes a life worth living. A whip-smart (but unpretentious), funny (but also sad), wonderful book.
"The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World."
Going Bovine opens with one of the most hilarious scenes that i have ever read and really hooked me in as a reader. having grown up in Florida, i spent an unreasonable amount of my childhood at Disney World and reveled in the nostalgia of the opening scenery (and the later scenes throughout the Florida landscape).
the book follows our narrator Cameron, who is at the high end of the loser spectrum, destined to work the fast food drive through (or something equally loser-ish) for the rest of his life. but, when he is diagnosed with mad cow disease and is hospitalized, his "barometer on reality" tips back and forth and we lose track of reality along with Cameron. he finds himself on a quest against time to find the mysterious Dr. X, who can both provide a cure and save the world from conspiring evil forces.
the characters were well developed and plentiful, from a jazz legend to a talking garden gnome and everything in between. my absolute favorite was Dulcie, the punk rock guardian angel, though Gonzo, the hypochondriac dwarf, came in as a close second, as a pretty admirable sidekick type. even the characters who made cameo appearances were pretty memorable and i was definitely impressed with the range of characterization present in a single book.
Bray's writing is sharp and witty and moves at a fairly quick pace, which i found to be very refreshing. there is a lot of punchy cynicism regarding consumers and religious fanatics and more, which really allows the book to be interpreted from multiple angles. there is a lot of depth if you prefer, but it's just as easily a nice and fluffy, funny read if that's what you prefer. but, the dialogue is where this book shined the most for me. if you like biting, wildly untraditional humor that isn't compelled to make any sense at all, you'll love this.
"Whoa," I say. Or at least, I think that's what I say. I'm stoned. For all I know I could have said, "Board the cows! We've come to enslave your marigolds." This makes me laugh, chuckling all to myself in the back.
just be warned, as a Young Adult book, this is full of the things that teens are drawn towards - sex, drugs and rock and roll. if that offends or upsets you, i wouldn't even bother with this book.
my only qualm was that i would occasionally lose interest and would need to put the book down for a rest. the rambling nature of the storyline, with Cameron's cross country quest to find Dr. X, along with the length of the book, made for some segmented reading. it kind of reminded me of when i watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. it was just so out there, as is Going Bovine, and i had to get back to reality a bit before i could plunge back into the story. and to be fair, it did all come together for a pretty interesting and meaningful conclusion.
and this is a complete and total aside, but i had to include this #pantyworthy quote because it made me snort when i read it:
"Gonzo slaps his leg, chortling. "He's tearing that uke up! Go, badass girly-singing man!"
"I bet the women throw their underwear," I crack.
"I want to throw my underwear! Pull over so I can take it off!""
yep, like i said, the book is hilarious. go read it.
My only complaint is that it doesnt get really juicy til the last few hundred pages. Up until then you kind feel like your Gonzo... like your being dragged around by a crazy friend that you dont have the heart to blow off. Not that it isnt interesting, though. Once you make it to that last few hundred pages though it really makes you think about what it means to really live and what it feels like to find your first true love. I shed a tear in a few spots, lol.
As a fan of the Gemma Doyle Series I was pleased with this book. Though I will say that while the GDS is definitely more female geared and boys most likely wouldn't enjoy it, young men will more than likely thoroughly enjoy Going Bovine.
Here's where the story gets weird. After a punk-rock angel named Dulcie sets him out on a quest to save the world and find a cure for his terminal disease, he hooks up with a hypochondriac dwarf and a garden gnome. Cameron's adventure shares many parallels with both Don Quixote (a book he had been reading in English class) and The Wizard of Oz (if Dorothy was a horny teenaged boy and the yellow brick road was a rare virus).
By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Cameron's journey also has many parallels to...life.