Friday, March 12, 2010

Review GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray

by, Libba Bray
published September 22nd 2009 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 480 pages
Placement in Pile:
Somewhat buried
Cameron Smith, 16, is slumming through high school, overshadowed by a sister “pre-majoring in perfection,” while working (ineptly) at the Buddha Burger. Then something happens to make him the focus of his family's attention: he contracts mad cow disease. What takes place after he is hospitalized is either that a gorgeous angel persuades him to search for a cure that will also save the world, or that he has a vivid hallucination brought on by the disease. Either way, what readers have is an absurdist comedy in which Cameron, Gonzo (a neurotic dwarf) and Balder (a Norse god cursed to appear as a yard gnome) go on a quixotic road trip during which they learn about string theory, wormholes and true love en route to Disney World. Bray's surreal humor may surprise fans of her historical fantasies about Gemma Doyle, as she trains her satirical eye on modern education, American materialism and religious cults (the smoothie-drinking members of the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'N' Bowl). Offer this to fans of Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy seeking more inspired lunacy.



That's about how I felt reading this book. Uh, what in the world is going on? Uh, why are there so many stinkin' "f-bombs"? Uh, why does he keep talking about his... male anatomy and its "reactions" in many crude and varied ways? Uh...

The reason I didn't post last week is because I was trying to force myself to finish this book. I would have just put it down, but it's an award winning book that received a glowing review from someone I know and respect on goodreads. So I pressed on, hoping that I just wasn't there yet. It had moments---moments of humor, of sadness, of some of the beautiful writing I'm used to from Ms. Bray. However, for me, most of it was a neurotic mess. I understand it was most likely intended to be that way, since he is losing his mind. But still... it was just such a mess. It was also supposed to be a satyr, but sometimes I felt like I wasn't getting what she meant. Or maybe she didn't mean anything by some of it, except to be neurotic, and I was looking for too much deeper meaning. There were some very obvious things (like her names for school tests, the teacher's way of describing the tests "you're not supposed to think, just memorize these answers", the names of all the food items and stores and everything, etc.) But some of just made me think "uh...."

For me, it was hard going from the lush, gorgeous writing in the Gemma Doyle series to this crass, in your face writing of GOING BOVINE. And all of the language and crudeness and drug use (etc.) was just distracting for me. I would have enjoyed it much more without all of that.

So, I don't really know what to say, because it won an award, and some people seemed to really love it. Maybe I just didn't get it. What did you guys think of this book?

Be warned, it has tons of language (especially the "f-word" in many forms and usages: verb, adjective, etc.); drug use, and sex.

Ultimately, this book just wasn't for me.


Stephanie said...

Thanks for your review!

I've seen a few good reviews of this book but I don't remember anyone mentioning the profanity or crudeness in it. That usually makes it hard for me to read a book too.

Carolyn V. said...

Thanks for the review! I'm so glad you mentioned the contents of the book. I have a hard time reading that stuff too.

I'm Erin said...

DAng. I thought it would be good. I ain't got time for that crap. oh well.

Sara said...

I agree with you all the way. I was really surprised by this book and it's content. It was just so weird and out there. I am really surprised it's classified as Young Adult, because it doesn't seem like it should be.

It was a huge disappointment for me. I loved the Gemma Doyle series and was looking forward to this one. I hope Libba Bray doesn't continue to write like this!

Marcia said...

"it was just such a mess."

I really have to agree. Yeah, it won an award. That doesn't help me like it one bit better. To me, this book might be one that would develop a cult following. I really liked the Gemma Doyle books, but this one was to me ... inexplicable.