Monday, October 19, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House
ISBN: 9780385733977
Starred reviews in: Booklist, BBYA nominee


Texas teen Cameron Smith was coasting along through high school and life in general with very little effort spent on either. All of this changes when he’s diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human equivalent of Mad Cow disease). He goes from being ignored to being pep rally celebrated. Immediate family members happy to give him a hard time or leave him to his lazy ways change their tune when faced with losing him. A stint in the hospital and Cameron’s story can go in one of two directions: What the rational reader believes or what the hopeful reader wants to believe. 1. Cameron begins to suffer hallucinations in earnest as his brain succumbs to the disease and he fades in and out of consciousness and reality. 2. Our hero accepts the quest Dulcie, the pink-haired punk angel, has lain out before him, accompanied by friend Gonzo (a gaming, hypochondriac dwarf) and a talking, badass lawn gnome evidently the Norse god Balder. On one trippy road trip they face fire giants while searching for the mysterious Dr. X, who can save both Cameron and the world (Dr. X’s time traveling has placed it in jeopardy). This world consists of tabloid code, time traveling, a Disney E-ticket that preserves health gaming style, a smoothie-loving happiness cult, evil-fighting jazz musicians, quotable sci-fi fandom, and the phony culture of both music television and high school.


Bray’s latest is sizable like her Gemma Doyle trilogy. The only other thing they have in common is that Going Bovine is another fantastic tale worth reading. Going Bovine is at once insanely amusing, laugh out loud funny sci-fi but also misty-eye inducing and thought provoking contemporary fiction. Satirical and touching. Star Wars meets Don Quixote. Pop culture melded with philosophy. Bray successfully peppers Cameron’s quest with bits and pieces of real life mentioned pre-hospitalization and readers wonder at their significance to the mission and/or peg them as evidence Cameron’s hallucinating brain is failing. Like Cameron, you never quite know what’s really happening. Characters, specifically Cameron, are well drawn. The dialogue is clever (side splitting) and believable. Bray’s sometimes off the wall humorous sci-fi blends well with spot on observations on the human condition, belief, what’s superficial and what’s real….and what it means to live. While the story plods along at points, weighted by the surreal and the amount of material, invested readers should stick it out till the end. When it comes, they’ll have to decide if Cameron’s quest/hallucination afforded him the chance to really live.

Maybe not THE winner but worth keeping on our list and definitely worth picking up for your library.

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