Tuesday, August 16, 2011
REVIEW: Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genre: Magical Realism, Dark Comedy
Summary: Sadly, high school slacker Cameron Smith's fondest memory is from his childhood trip to Disney World when he nearly died. Now he's been diagnosed with Creutzfeld Jakob's (aka mad cow) disease, and it is official: His life sucks. But then Dulcie, a frustratingly elusive punk-rock angel shows up at the hospital and assures Cameron there is a cure! All Cameron has to do is escape from the hospital and track down the mysterious Dr. X, a time-traveling physicist, and save the world along the way. What follows is a crazy road trip in the company of Gonzo, a paranoid, video-gaming dwarf and Balder, a Norse god in the guise of a lawn gnome.
I really expected to LOVE this book. After all, I adored Bray's (totally different) Gemma Doyle Trilogy, and Going Bovine did win the 2010 Michael Prinz Award, edging out Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist—which I did love. Plus there's this super-cool book trailer:
I expected a trippy, action-packed, fun road adventure. All ingredients for total awesomeness. But... I think Bray got a little sidetracked by her own brilliance. At times the pace seemed agonizingly slow—especially the CESSNAB episode—and the subtext a little heavy handed. Basically, though genuinely funny and fascinating at times, the book just seemed too contrived and self-aware for my liking. Still, I am glad I read the book. The "bro-mance" between Cameron, Gonzo, and Balder was unusual and compelling, and Bray is a pro when it comes to capturing snarky teenage dialog. Readers interested in philosophy and the nature of reality may especially enjoy reading this one.
Confession and questions: I listened to this book in audio format, so perhaps that had something to do with my underwhelming response. Have any of you found that some books just don't work in audio format? I'm not blaming the reader—he actually did a fine job—but I can't help wondering if the pacing or constant exposition would have played better in print. Or perhaps I just expected too much? For those of you who have read the book, what did you think? I'm curious.