Book Review:Going BovineBy: Libba Bray
“Think: who has vans, huh? Soccer moms and serial killers.”
I was thirteen when I first read the back of Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. At the time I scoffed, laughed, and put it back on the shelf. The second I had read that Cameron, the protagonist, was a dying teenager, I rolled my eyes, thinking that this would only lead in the direction of the countless other sob-story-dying-teen’s-final-wishes books. Boy, was I wrong. Over the summer, my brother got a copy of the book. After hearing him talk about it non-stop, I agreed to read it as well. Looking back, I’m very glad I did. Right from page one, Going Bovine grabbed my attention and got me laughing.
The sarcastic, sixteen-year-old protagonist, Cameron, introduces himself to us by saying, “The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage.” We are then brought into Cameron’s world: a typical high school in a typical small, American city. Cameron’s friends are also introduced, and we see that Cameron’s that awkward, doesn’t-really-belong-anywhere kind of guy. Aside from a peculiar Spanglish course and the occasional physics-based conversation with his slacker friends, Cameron’s life is 110% normal.
That’s when the whole dying thing comes into play. We learn that Cameron has contracted Mad Cow Disease and has a very short time left on this earth. What does he do? He rounds up possibly the most motley band of sidekicks ever (a punk angel, an asthmatic, a video game addicted dwarf, and a garden gnome/Norse god) and heads out on a road trip, at the end of which, he will apparently discover a cure — if he doesn’t die first.
Full of crazy secondary characters, snappy dialogue, and jaw-dropping sub-plots, Going Bovine is the kind of unique book you’re not likely to ever forget.
I enjoyed Going Bovine because of its fresh, original, take on the dying teen genre. Libba Bray takes this dried-out, over-used idea, chews it up, and spits it out, creating a wildly entertaining story in the process. The book is full of little subplots that you’re sure won’t develop, until you realize everything has been written for a reason. Just about everything ever mentioned in the story, from Buddha Burger to S.P.E.W. tests to the C.E.S.S.N.A.B. cult, ties itself together at some point or another. Bray has filled Going Bovine with cultural references that play to everyone’s interests. Whether your thing is Schrödinger’s Cat, or hipster music, or anything in between, there is something for you to find humour in. Most of the time, Libba Bray has renamed the references, which, in my opinion, adds to the humour because of how she mentions them. I must also comment on Bray’s way of bringing the entire, bizarre journey to its bittersweet, slightly more serious conclusion. All the subplots and references tie together, and readers are left to wonder if Cameron’s journey was real, or whether it was all just an elaborate hallucination. Going Bovine made me laugh, (almost) made me cry, and I would recommend it to anyone willing to read an original, witty story that will take you on one hell of a ride.