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Going Bovine    by Libba Bray order for
Going Bovine
by Libba Bray
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

Sixteen-year-old Cameron is a typical teenager in so many ways - heavily sarcastic, weary of his parents, doing just enough to get by in school. His increasingly erratic behavior is attributed to adolescent rebellion, until a frightening seizure leads his parents to seek medical intervention. What the doctors find is shocking - Cameron has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, better known as Mad Cow disease. His strange hallucinations, twitches, and pain can all be linked to the degeneration of his brain, and worse yet, there is no cure. Cameron has just been handed a death sentence.

Lying in a hospital bed, Cameron begins to adjust to his circumstances, which include a roommate, Gonzo, a foul-mouthed dwarf, and Dulcie, a decidedly punk-rock angel. Cameron doesn't know if his new companions are real or hallucinations, but when Dulcie tells him of a far-fetched plan to cure him of his disease, he finds himself on a remarkable road trip with Gonzo, searching for the elusive Doctor X, and the key to saving the world.

Running from their parents, and the law, Cameron and Gonzo crisscross the United States, encountering party-goers at Mardi Gras, the cult-like Church of Everlasting Salvation, The YA! TV Party House, and Balder, the Viking hero inconveniently stuffed in the body of a garden gnome. Each step he takes closer to the mysterious Doctor X teaches Cameron more about the nature of life, and love, and what constitutes truly living. By the time his journey is finished, Cameron and his new friends will never be the same.

Going Bovine is a complete departure for author Libba Bray from her best-selling Gemma Doyle trilogy, and readers are in for an unforgettable experience. Bray perfectly captures the sarcasm and attitude of a sixteen-year-old boy, and remains true to the essence of that character throughout the book. This is not a happily-ever-after novel, but Bray skillfully tackles her heavy subject matter with such wry humor that the reading never feels oppressive. Cameron's increasingly loyal sidekicks, Gonzo and Balder, are both hilarious and sympathetic, making the reader care as much about them as about the hero.

With influences that range from jazz music to quantum physics, reality television to Don Quixote, this is the type of novel that lends itself to a re-read. It is a completely unique and refreshing addition to the current young adult reading shelf, and while it does contain enough adult language and frank sexual references that it may not be ideal for younger readers, I would highly recommend it to teens and adults looking for a funny, intelligent coming-of-age novel with a twist.

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