(Random House, Hardcover, September 2009)
Cameron's main goal in life is to coast through high school. His younger sister is the over-achiever in the family, so Cameron has given up on trying. He has a hard time connecting with his parents, his classmates, and even music, save for one awful sounding band called the Great Tremelo. Then Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and his life really begins. Dulcie, a cute winged punk angel, comes to him and presents him with a quest to save the world. With nothing to lose, Cameron heads out on the ultimate of road trips.
Going Bovine is a weird mix of string theory, classic literary references, and teenage sarcasm that actually works—in fact, it works quite well. Cameron's voice is smart, disillusioned, and priceless; take his thoughts on high school English class, for example:
"These works—groundbreaking, incendiary, timeless—have been pureed by the curriculum monsters into a digestible pabulum of themes and factoids we can spew back on a test." (p.6)The dilemma that Bray presents is irresistible: the underachieving, yet extremely smart high school boy thinks that he has all the time in the world to experience life, but he doesn't. Cameron's road trip buddies, a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo and a Norse God turned yard gnome named Balder, offer tons of fodder for existential musings and crude teenage boy humor. Libba Bray has definitely established herself as a leading voice in contemporary literature. Though this book is nothing like her Gemma Doyle trilogy, I devoured it with the same interest and intensity. And if any booksellers or librarians are reading this review, you are selling this book short if you let the teen label on the back define your audience for it.
You can read this novel in two ways, either Cameron is lying in a hospital bed, hallucinating as the disease eats away at his brain, or Cameron really is battling the forces of good and evil while seriously crushing on a candy-addicted punk angel. Either way you see it, Going Bovine will have you laughing out loud, folding down pages that have some of the best quotes you've read in years, and vowing that, starting today, you will live your live to the fullest. As the old lady in the hospital tells Cameron,
"I don't think you should die before you're ready. Until you've wrung out every last bit of living you can." (p.97)