Annalisa's Reviews > Going Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
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Apr 10, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: book-club, young-adult, magical-realism, humor, satire, voice, cover
Recommended to Annalisa by: YA book club
Recommended for: beware of an overuse of the f word, blah
Read from April 07 to 10, 2010

Bray takes on the great Don Quixote and delivers more than a modern satire. She gives us a wild ride worthy of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz that is not only fun and hilarious but moving and exceptionally written. This novel is a monumental undertaking and somehow Bray accomplishes it.

In the beginning, I found Cameron wholly unrelatable, but Bray is so witty and has such a way with sarcastic metaphors and sneaking in description so you see and smell and hear and feel the book without it slowing down the plot that I didn't want to stop reading even though I didn't care about Cameron who was a total loser. He's going nowhere at school. Gets fired from his job with good reason. Hates his family and they aren't too fond of his slackerness either. His only hobby seems to be to listen to music he hates so he can mock it. He's high at least once a week. Shows no hope, no responsibility, and elicits zero sympathy from me. But Bray managed to keep me interested in his story and smiling at her wit despite the f-word coming out in every sentence. (Isn't it against some social norm to say the f-word when you're talking about Disneyland?)

Just as I was getting turned off with the too modern feel (references to WTF, 'rents, things like that) in a story that didn't seem to go anywhere, Cameron develops mad-cow disease and starts his mental decline. That's when he heads out on a mission to save himself and the world. On his travels, he takes a hypochondriac dwarf, picks up a talking garden gnome, and heads toward the happiest place on earth following clues of the seemingly random with help from a punk-rock angel. Yeah, it's that whacked.

I laughed and smiled through all his misadventures that were really the adventure in disguise. The way Bray weaved everything in his life from snow globes to cartoons into this adventure so that it was not only important but part of some grander metaphor for his life was utter genius. I am in awe of Bray's creative power. Through his whole crazy adventure, you can laugh at this story for the slapstick humor or find that deep meaningful awareness of pot talk (not that I've ever been there).

You know that feeling when you finish a book or a movie and you feel like something monumental has happened, but nothing's happened to you. All you did was watch a movie or read a book. That's how I felt when I closed this book, which is pretty amazing that Bray made me experience the book on its terms. But this book isn't for everyone. Just like you have to be in the right mood (or the right person) to appreciate Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, you have to be there to appreciate this. For all my disdain at the swearing and my initial turn-off to the character (which ended up being necessary), for what the book accomplishes, I have to to say, "Wow. That's a palindrome." (It's in the book.)

Minor Spoilers in my symbolism-happy analysis:
(view spoiler)

Favorite quotes:
-The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.
-Scoring well on tests is the sort of happy thing that gets the school district the greenbacks they crave. Understanding and appreciating the material are secondary.
-I've never done acid, finding it hard to go willingly to a place that could be frightening, hellish, and totally beyond my control. A place much like high school.
-For the record, our friend Chet King has read exactly three books in his life, but I'm not sure that sitting through The Happy Bunny Easy Reader twice should count.
-Cross-pollination of our educational experience.
-Chet nods at me in that ages-old macho greeting: I have acknowledge your existence, peon. Do not ask for more.
-"You coming to the game, bro?" "Can't. It's against my religion... Apathy."
-Jena's ubergirl lair. No doubt any serial killer would take one look at the lavender walls covered with sensitive girl songwriter posters and dive out the window anyway.
-All hail the suburban action hero.
-Resigned, I trudge over to the register, wondering if girls can smell your total fear, like wolves or very experienced serial killers.
-I've been poked and prodded in places I'd always prided myself on keeping untouched for that one special doctor who gives me a ring and a promise someday.
-As a coping tool, denial is severely underrated.
-He's decked out in full protective gear... like a giant medical paranoia snowman or some eccentric pop star addicted to bizarre fashion choices.
-Had they eaten each other in a drug-induced, hate-fueled orgy of excess—the dark side of celebrity.
-There are several Dr. A**holes who come in here every day to scribble on my chart and poke with sharp objects so they can collect points for their Sadistic Scout Badges, but so far, no Dr. X.
-The waitress takes note of his Little Person status. It's like it stalls out for a minute and she needs to reboot, but the forced smile comes back.
-Gonzo shakes his head like I'm giving him Bubonic Plague in jewelry form.
-Gonzo's revving as hard as an engine, like he doesn't know whether to be more freaked out about getting in the van with a bunch of possible serial killers or to take his chances alone on the side of a road in Godonlyknowswhere, Mississippi.
-You're guaranteed the same experience every single time. And you're having the same experience as everybody else. It cuts down on things like dissatisfaction, envy, competitiveness, longing, regret. All that bad stuff.
-I am special; special people do not die.
-I want to help you find what I've found. Here, have a key chain.
-They say it might take twenty-four hours to fix [the smoothie machine:]. That's like a lifetime!
-I think about dying every day, because I can't stop thinking about living.
-Tara looks at him like he's just said all babies should be euthanized.
-As a kind, I imagined lots of different scenarios for my life. I would be an astronaut. Maybe a cartoonist. A famous explorer or rock star. Never once did I see myself standing under the window of a house belonging to some druggie named Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so I could get a cab back to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting for me so we could get on the road to an undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X, who would cure me of mad cow disease and stop a band of dark energy from destroying the universe.
-The world's most bada** Viking yard gnome is on the counter by the cash register using a dinner plates as a shield and a steak knife as a sword.
-I thought I was having an existential crisis, but it was nothing.
Please don't tailgate: body in trunk.
-The air smells like it's just been born.
-Here. Now This. This is it, cowboy. The whole ride. Pay attention.
-It's got enough megawatts lighting to give a space station lightbulb envy.
-It's the whole damn unfairness of it all. Like I'm just starting to understand how amazing this whole crazy ride is going to be and now it's coming to an end.
-When it comes, her kiss is like something not so much felt as found.
Vikings. Not great with subtlety.
-I realize I'm really tired. But a good tired, like I've spent all day at the beach.
-Who but the mad would choose to keep on living? In the end, aren't we all just a little crazy?
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06/03/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Wow, Annalisa, Great review. I've been trying to decide whether or not I want to read this book.


Annalisa I noticed you haven't started. It's not everyone's cup of tea (speaking of Alice in Wonderland), but it's a fun one to discuss and think about. I think it would have been great to read in a class (although I would have been bugged I was assigned something with so much language). It wasn't anything like I expected.


message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Excellent review! I want to point out 2 other things that you missed...
1. The Hostess and the nod to crap reality television (although you somewhat covered this in the YA! Spring Break stuff).

and

2. The multiple nods to 42 and Douglas Adams (practically anytime there's a number mentioned, its 42).

Very nice review overall though!


Annalisa Kim,
Thank you. I hadn't noticed the 42. It makes me want to go skim the book again.


message 5: by Penny (new) - added it

Penny I'm stuck. I need your help.

So I'm at that part when Cameron and Gonzo are in a New Orleans nightclub. I've been stuck in the same spot for over a month. I just can't force myself past it. Help me! Give me some sort of incentive. Reassure me. Tell me it gets better! Please?


Amelia, the pragmatic idealist wow. not gonna lie, I'm a little surprised you liked this one :)


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Penny wrote: "I'm stuck. I need your help.

So I'm at that part when Cameron and Gonzo are in a New Orleans nightclub. I've been stuck in the same spot for over a month. I just can't force myself past it. ..."


I can see why you are stuck there, just blow past the space stuff and you'll be fine, it absolutely gets better. You haven't even met Balder yet! He's worth it all by himself. Promise.


message 8: by Annalisa (last edited Jun 27, 2010 02:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Amelia,
I know, huh :(. I didn't like the beginning and I hated the language, but the symbolism makes me giddy. And I loved the humor. But don't read it. You would hate it.

Penny,
Yes, Balder! You have to read on to get to this part:
"I imagined lots of different scenarios for my life. I would be an astronaut. Maybe a cartoonist. A famous explorer or rock star. Never once did I see myself standing under the window of a house belonging to some druggie named Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so I could get a cab back to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting for me so we could get on the road to an undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X, who would cure me of mad cow disease and stop a band of dark energy from destroying the universe."

And you have snow globe bashing and great metaphysics humor and a wild hallucination at Disneyland and Gonzo gets on TV and Cameron destroys a smoothie machine and a cult in one swoop, but mostly, you get more punk-rock angel and Balder the viking garden gnome.

The night club scene is long. Just skip to the next chapter and read on. When you encounter the Wizard of Reckoning again and are curious about his appearance at the night club, you can come back if you want. If you meet Balder (where you read that awesome quote above) and still don't want to read on, well then, you can close the book at that point and think "not for me." And we can still be friends. It's not one of those 5-star reads that I think "it was so amazing, how could you not like it?" You know, like the one-star read that we think "It was awful, how could you like it?" And you know what I'm talking about because we always talk about her, right? :)


Amelia, the pragmatic idealist hahaha okay. I trust you! I had thought about reading this, then I read about how much drug content and sex was in it and kinda changed my mind.
So...is that why you liked it? The symbolism? I've never read anything by Bray before, but is she a strong writer in that department?


message 10: by Annalisa (last edited Mar 05, 2012 08:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa I haven't read the Gemma Doyle series and I heard her writing improved, but yes, her writing is amazing. My favorite like was "The air smells like it's just been born." In that one sentence I could see and smell the scene. She added description in a humorous way that didn't slow down the plot and I was in awe of her writing ability. It's something I definitely try to implement in my own writing that I learned from her. With the symbolism, she took everything in Cam's life in the beginning (snow globes, a CD he bought, a comment from another student in a bathroom, everything) and turns into something symbolic about his life's journey. It's kind of a risk taking a classic and trying to write your own monumental book that parallels it and while I wish she were more respectful of classics (i.e. not so many f words), it was still a big accomplishment. As far as a literary piece (the satire and symbolism and parallels to a classic), I do think it's amazing, but as far as a story (with all those swear words and drugs and sexual content) I wouldn't have rated it so high.


message 11: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Neman Thanks for the long commentary...I only clicked on the book icon to dismiss it after reading a perfunctory description...and then I found your review! I changed my mind and marked it TBR...


Melissa Rochelle I love your review so much I feel like I don't need to say much in my own other than...Great book, Everyone should read it!


message 13: by Annalisa (last edited Mar 05, 2012 08:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Thanks, Melissa! I can get a little crazy on my reviews :).

And Carol, I hope you enjoy it.


Mehdi how much time did it take you to write this review? anyways, thanks, cause it helped me alot for my homework.


Annalisa Haha, glad I could help. I don't remember how much time it took me. I'm weird that way in that I like analyzing a piece of good fiction.


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