Going Bovine

Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Publication: 2009; Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 496
Genre: Young Adult
Awards: Printz

"Not that you should put your cat in a box with poison; that's why it's a thought experiment..." Rachel points out, "...and the atom either decays and kills the cat - or it doesn't. Until you open up the box and observe, everything's a probability."

"Wrong," Kevin says. "You're hung up on the observer effect. You don't control the outcome. You don't create the reality. Face it - the cat's either alive or it's dead." (11)

ATTENTION: Because I am working through my likes and dislikes of this book there will be potential SPOILERS. Read at your own risk. :)
OK. So here's the deal. We meet this boy, Cameron, who I believe is sixteen and a total slacker. I mean, no commitment, could care less about anything, except he digs this odd import band that makes weird music. But that's about it. No friends. And he's okay with it. No goals. And he's okay with it. Overall, not the type of character that you'd be rooting for. Ya hear me? Perhaps the anti-hero type?

Then, Cameron starts spazzing out. He is cursing out loud like he's got a good case of tourettes, twitching all nervous and uncontrollable-like, and actually gets into a fight. Full on physical punching the dude that is with his sister. Obviously parents freak and think he's on drugs. But nope. They were wrong. As it happens, Cameron caught a bad case of Mad Cow's disease.

Wherein, he ends up in the hospital fighting for his life when an uber hot angel girl (Dulcie) convinces him he must go on a mission with this OCD/ hypochondriac dwarf friend of his who is also in the hospital, by the name of Gonzo (and it is pretty hysterical since the true Gonzo was fearless and this one is a case of "OMG I'm dying from EVERYTHING!"). And of course, Cameron goes. Because it wouldn't be a book without an adventure right?

So now, I am starting to have some problems with the book and we're not even half way through it. First, I could care less about Cameron. Really. So what if he has this rare cow disease that is eating away at his brain. He just didn't convince me. Which means that i have to rely on the story. Cameron and Gonzo go traipsing through the states, first to New Orleans (because of course every crazy adventure has to start in NOLA) and the eventual goal is Florida (we're gonna go to disney world, ma!). Along the way he ends up talking to Dulcie off and on, meeting interesting characters, and having philosophy ideas posed to him. I was instantly reminded of Tom Robbin's novels, except Robbin's is an expert at taking you through a mental adventure and I found this to be amateurish and contrived. For example, Cameron and Gonzo get picked up by these CESSNAB folks and taken to their commune. They soon find out that CESSNAB stands for "Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack N' Bowl". Yup. A utopia where everyone is happy, but in fact, is a dystopia because no one is free to feel anything else or be different from anyone else. A person might ask for a Strawberry Smoothie while their buddy requests Banana but both will be given Vanilla. Ya see? But then we don't get the show don't tell...we get a lecture on the value of individual.

As you can imagine, I debated putting it aside. And, actually I did. I did not bring Going Bovine with me to the Keys. After vacation, I chose to give it one more chance. So I read on.

Now for the big SPOILERS. But it's the ending that sorta redeemed by book for me. Through out the novel we get different glimpses of Cameron lying in the bed at the hospital: coding, getting saved again, new meds burning, nurses talking, parents crying. We know that everything that happens in the Cameron/Dulcie/Gonzo world (oh yeah, and there's a talking gnome, too) is not real. Of course he's dreaming...or hallucinating, or whatever else you want to describe that time when you're slowly dying because your brain is getting eaten alive. But then, Bray doesn't puss out. He doesn't miraculously return back to the land of the healthy. Nope. In the last scene Cameron is dead and hanging out with Dulcie.

Which got me thinking...I don't think that all of those lectures were really written to be verbose but more like Cameron's other selves talking to each other. Sometimes when I dream I know that I'm saying (thinking?) obvious things, but my mind is sorta processing what I've thought about and tying up all of the loose mental strings.

In that sense, the novel came across rather clever. I mean, how often are you going to find a book that deals with death that way? The more I thought about it the more I decided I liked Going Bovine.


  1. I'm not reading because I don't want to spoil. I did have this one checked out from the library at one point, but I don't know if the weirdness is going to work for me. I think I'll have to be in just the right mood for this one.

  2. I like your review :D Here's mine if you don't mind: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2013/02/going-bovine-by-libba-bray.html

    Thanks and have a nice day!


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