The Rusty Key's Reviews > Going Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
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's review
Oct 26, 2010

really liked it

Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Becca Worthington

Recommended for: Boys and girls, ages 15 and up, with warnings for profanity, sexuality, drug use and underage drinking.

One Word Summary: Imaginative.

Perhaps it’s not fair of me, but when a book wins one of the nation’s most celebrated and highly coveted literary awards, I tend to read it with additional skepticism, judging more harshly and being more critical than I typically would. Which is why I am thrilled to say that Going Bovine, winner of the 2010 Michael J. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult fiction, deserves every award on the planet. (I really mean that. If I thought she would accept them, I’d overnight FedEx the author my Spelling bee trophies and swimming ribbons.) It’s inventive, quirky, evocative, highly original, fast-paced, brutally honest, and an all-around fantastic read.

Quite simply, this book rocks out loud.

Ever since his childhood near-death experience on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World, all that Cameron has wanted is to be left alone to live his apathetic, cynical slacker existence. His motto: “No expectations equals no failed expectations equals no hurt feelings equals everything’s cool.” But it’s hard to stay cool when you are diagnosed at age 16 with Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s disease (aka “mad cow” disease), a terminal illness that irrevocably destroys your brain and motor control. One day Cameron is working at Buddha Burger and smoking pot in the school bathroom; the next day his high school is throwing cow-themed pep rallies, and he is locked into a hospital bed, deteriorating and dreaming of escape.

That escape comes in the unexpected form of a sweet tooth addicted, punk rock angel named Dulcie. While visiting Cameron in the hospital, she tells him there is one man who can find a cure for his disease: renowned time travel scientist Dr. X. Unfortunately, Dr. X disappeared into a black hole and has been hopping galaxies for the last several years, releasing unstable dark energy into the current world as he travels. If Cameron can’t find Dr. X in the next two weeks and get him to successfully close the wormhole he created, the entire planet will go up in flames. (No biggie.)

Going Bovine is a highly imaginative piece of teen literature. Ms. Bray has a visual accessibility to her writing that makes it possible to believe the ridiculously impossible for almost 500 pages. Although the subject matter is on the older end of the spectrum (the characters cuss and talk about girls like, well, teenage boys), the themes of bravery and trust are represented in a thought provoking and delightful way. The result is a hilarious and surprisingly moving book with admirable scope and depth, and this book challenges ideas of mortality, reality, and acceptance to an admirable degree. Excellence in Young Adult fiction indeed. There is not an adolescent alive who wouldn’t be inspired and entertained by this fanciful power-launched road trip storyline and its cast of crazies.

As a kooky old woman that Cameron meets on his journey says, “No one should die until they’ve wrung out every last bit of living they can,” and this book is absolutely alive on every page.

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