Review: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

bovineCan Cameron find what he’s looking for?

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.


After having loved Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, a friend insisted on lending me Going Bovine. That was over a year ago. I kept putting it off in favour of library books which had much shorter lending periods (sorry!) and new books that I’d been waiting for. Finally, on a weekend in March, when I was in the mood for something different and interesting, I finally picked up Going Bovine. And I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it. It’s the whole package – dimensional characters; a wacky, off beat plot; hard hitting themes; humour; action and adventures; romance; friendship…. all blended into a masterful tale.

I didn’t really love Cameron as a person, but he made for a pretty awesome narrator. Dorky, yet surprisingly philosophical, funny and loyal; at first glance he seems like a stereotypical teenage boy, and he is that at first, but as the story progresses, so does Cam, into a wonderfully complex character. The more he experiences, the more he grows. The teen angst is done subtly – no annoying ‘nobody gets me’ or ‘who I am’ repetitive monologues. Cam’s life sucks. His family is dysfunctional, he’s the bottom of the feeding chain at high school, and then he gets diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, AKA, Mad Cow disease and has just weeks left to live. So yeah, he’s in a bad place and hates his life and all that, but the story was never overly depressive or angsty.

It is actually rather inspiring with melancholy undertones. Despite the fact that Cam is dying, and all of his adventures are most likely just a crazy hallucination, he learns what it means to live, to love, to have fun. His imminent death pushed him to live more freely. However, it’s also terribly sad that he could only experience all of this because he was dying, and that such a young life could be cut short. Going Bovine really questions society’s approach to death and dying and wonders if perhaps there’s more to life than we realize. But ultimately it is about what is means to be alive.

Cam’s adventures are truly crazy but also super meaningful in a satirical way. From a crazy hippie colony to the beaches of Florida, Cam and his equally insane friends go on the most epic of all roadtrips in an effort to save the world.

It’s creative, meaningful, and just an all out wonderful book. At times it moved me to tears, and out others made me laugh out loud. It’s the kind that you can read over and over again and never find boring. And more importantly, it will strike a chord with you as well. Highly recommended.


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