Going Bovine by Libba Bray (which won the Printz Honor in 2010)
(Listened to the Overdrive Media Audiobook version read by Erik Davies)
If you’re in the market for a twisting tale that constantly causes you to stop and consider, “Is this really happening?”, then Going Bovine is just the work for you. The story is a cross-country epic that stars the motliest crew of characters: a Viking/Norse God stuck in a garden gnome-sized body, a dwarf who may be the most hypochondriac kid on the planet and an angel girl who rocks combat boots and neon-colored hair. Each of these players has an important part in the possibly life-saving journey that the main character, Cameron, must go on for the good of both himself and the universe.
16 year old Cameron Smith makes no attempts to try and get anyone to like him. He’s a guy that is content to just blend into the background of his high school existence; his few companions subsist of your average bathroom stoner/philosophers. His life seems very vanilla until he starts to lose control of his muscles and his thoughts. Cameron contracts Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s (better known as Mad Cow Disease). Cameron isn’t sure what to expect until he starts talking to a hallucination, Dulcie. Dulcie tells him that in order to cure his Mad Cow disease (and save the planet while he’s at it) Cameron has to convince his hospital roommate Gonzo to join him in a quest to find Dr. X, a physicist who broke through the barriers of time and left a worm hole that could suck up the entire universe.
Despite the disease and the challenge that this presents, Cameron embarks on the journey anyway, finding himself in crazy situations (including a world that has him missing his sister and parents). The story is glittered with allusions and challenging situations. As Cameron’s trip across America comes to an end, the reader will be tempted to pick up the book and read certain parts again.
Bray’s characters and savvy plot lines are complicated and full. Similar to her other works, the characters seem to be less than perfect yet still endearing in the way of your sarcastic and observant friend. Cameron has no easy relationships or roads in this part of his life, but he lacks sulk or bad attitude that one might expect to have after contracting a terminal illness from bad cafeteria food. The interactions between he and Dulcie personify teenage angst, but there are some truly tender moments that grow out of the friendship and loyalty that he feels toward Gonzo and Balder. Erik Davies’s reading of the audio is quietly powerful and moving. His long list of voices is definable and has a wide reaching emotional depth. Davies’s reading really breathes into Bray’s main point: Life is about the journey, including the effects one has on (and gains from) the people that you meet along the way.
Finished Going Bovine and looking for a new adventuresome read to try? Check into:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs or Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber