Going Bovine

A Book Review

goingbovineCameron is an aimless, sarcastic stoner who is alienated from his family and has no real friends of which to speak. When he starts having hallucinations and loses control of his body a couple of times, everyone assumes he must be using hallucinogenic drugs. Not true: after getting fired from Buddha Burger, getting suspended from school, being forced into therapy by his parents, and having a run-in with a flaming toaster oven, he is finally diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob (a.k.a. “Mad Cow”) disease. It will deteriorate his brain and kill him.

It is at this point when things get interesting. A pink-haired punker angel, complete with combat boots, torn fishnets, and actual feather wings spray-painted with graffiti, appears to Cameron in his hospital room. She urges Cameron to escape the hospital and undertake a quest to find the mysterious Dr. X, a traveler through dimensions who has inadvertently brought dark energy back with him to our universe. It is this dark energy that is attacking Cameron’s brain, not Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and if he can find Dr. X and get him to close up the wormhole, he will not only find a cure for himself but save the universe!

What follows is a kaleidoscopic adventure full of quirky characters and a million plot twists and details. The book is stuffed with a mess of references, touching on everything from Norse mythology to Star Wars, quantum mechanics to MTV Spring Break. Best of all, some of the hippest “references,” such as the legendary mystical free jazz trumpet player Junior Webster, are actually entirely made up by the author. While the book at times reads like both a Percy Jackson title for the 17+ crowd and Paper Towns on acid, Don Quixote looms large in the background and the idea of living out one’s life in a week’s time hearkens back to Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hilarious, weird, life affirming, surreal and ironic, above all Going Bovine is just a whole lot of wacky fun. (four stars)

[Flags: this book depicts drug use, pervasive profanity, and an irresponsible and somewhat ridiculous teenage fantasy sex scene. I hate sex scenes in books in general, and this one specifically knocks a half-point off my rating and makes it a definite “high school only” title. But really, if a dying teenage boy actually is dreaming his way through the end of his life, among other things of course he is going to dream himself up some sex, so maybe it can be forgiven?]

Going Bovine
Written by Libba Bray
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
496 pages
ISBN: 978-0385733977
Release Date: 22 September 2009
Libba Bray – Official Website

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