In a complete departure from her lauded Gemma Doyle trilogy, Libba Bray takes readers through the wormhole in this existential “moo”-gnum opus about a selfish teen who contracts Mad Cow Disease and, as a result, learns what it means to really LIVE. Sixteen-year-old Cameron is your typical self-absorbed teenager, obsessed with comic books, obscure music and little else. His parents’ marriage is crumbling, his popular sister denies his existence and he has been without a close friend for so long that he doesn’t even notice how lonely he is anymore. Then one day he begins seeing flickering flames in his peripheral vision and losing control of his various appendages. Turns out our man Cameron has gotten a hold of some bad beef, and now he’s going to die. Cameron is not cool about this new development at all, but what can you do when the universe decides that it’s time to punch your ticket? Well, you can go on a road trip. In the hospital, Cam is visited by a pink-haired angel named Dulcie who convinces him that there is a cure for his disease if he is willing to follow a set of totally random clues to Disneyland. Determined not to bite it before he at least loses his virginity, Cameron hightails it out of the hospital, with the help of his new friend Gonzo, a psychosomatic Little Person gamer, and his dad’s emergency credit card. On his way to Space Mountain, Cameron encounters New Orleans drag queens, Midwestern religious cult nuts, and a Nordic god disguised as a yard gnome. He buys a used Caddy with horns on the hood, is a contestant on a MTV-like spring break game show, and even does a little time traveling. Suddenly Cameron is having the time of his life–just as he is about to die. Of course, this whole adventure could just be a product of his spongy brain, which is slowly being turned into cottage cheese by his disease: it’s hard to say. Better not to ask too many questions and just enjoy the very wild and funny ride Libba Bray is taking you on that reads like a combination of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Christopher Moore’s Fluke. It’s weird. And wacky. And I’m still not sure I completely understood the physics bits. But in terms of marrying the suburban with the sublime and imparting the message that every day is a gift and living in the present is the best present you can give yourself, well, Bray hit it out of the park. Hard core Gemma Doyle fans may have a hard time making heads or tails of this one at first. But hang in there, G & TB lovers, and you will soon recognize your favorite author’s trademark sarcastic humor and boundary-pushing sensibilities in this surreal tale, albeit in a whole new time and place. An “udder”-ly original offering from a multifaceted author that won the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature!
Going Bovine by Libba Bray