Going Bovine – Libba Bray
All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.
Review: It took me forever to write this review because I needed a long time to process this book. It’s definitely one of the strangest things I’ve read.
Cameron is a normal teenager until he starts to hallucinate and lose control of his muscles. He is diagnosed with mad cow disease and told that he is going to die. As the disease eats away at his brain and he is confined to a hospital bed, he goes on a hallucinated journey across America. Along the way, he encounters giants made of fire, a happiness cult that believes everything can be cured with vanilla smoothies, a Norse god trapped in the body of a yard gnome, and a lot of excited college kids on spring break.
I have mixed feelings about this book. Despite its depressing subject, it’s very funny. I enjoyed seeing how different parts of Cameron’s life show up in his hallucinations. There were several scenes where I laughed out loud. On the other hand, the book is very weird. There were a lot of moments where I stopped reading and said, “Really? This is happening now? Really?” Ultimately, the book was a little too weird for me. I got frustrated with it at some points, and it took me a long time to read because it didn’t always hold my attention.
I also think the book could have been much shorter. The copy I read is almost 500 pages. It’s painfully obvious where in America Cameron’s journey is going to end. I just wanted him to get there.
There are some awesome elements of this novel. The characters are very diverse. Cameron is realistic, funny, and relatable. I also really like the ending. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I didn’t think the author would be brave enough to end it that way. The ending is both devastating and hopeful. After all the fantastical stuff that happens in the story, I’m glad that it ends in a realistic way.
The themes are the best part of the novel. This book is about not waiting to live your life. You never know how long your life will be, so go on as many crazy adventures as you can before it’s over.
I didn’t love this book, but if you have a really high tolerance for weirdness, it’s worth checking out.