Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Rant: Going Bovine

Can 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.

EDIT: I just learned that GOING BOVINE is actually the 2010 Printz Award Winner, which is sort of a big deal. So I'm saying my opinion is obviously not in the majority, as many people did find it fantastic. But I stand by my original review. I can see what the book is trying to do; I only feel like the book fell short of its goals.

I thought this book was okay. You have no idea how sad it makes me to say that because I ADORE Libba Bray. I am a huge fan of her writing and the way she can make ordinary moments extraordinary. I think she has enormous amounts of talent. I don't think this book did her justice.

At 480 pages, it's a whopper. And that is one of its problems. The book is too long and it sprawls all over the place like it wants to go everywhere and nowhere all at once. The premise is super. For some reason, I've been reading a lot of terminal illness novels lately. This one's about a kid who gets diagnosed with Mad Cow, which makes you hallucinate and generally go bonkers. Also, incurable. The beginning of the book is great. The voice pops and it's hilarious. The end is also good, if a bit rushed. The middle rambles. I mean, if it wasn't Libba, and I didn't love her, I probably would've given up somewhere around page 250. But I kept going because I wanted to see what happened, and yeah, she's got compelling writing. It's the plot that's worrisome. Halfway through, I started wondering, what is the point of all this? Where is the plot? Is there a plot?

Because I don't want to spoil anything, I won't say how these questions are answered. They are, but I feel in a somewhat scapegoat-ish way. Libba can write some long-ass books (see Gemma Doyle series), but GOING BOVINE could've been edited down to make it tighter and more coherent. In my opinion. If this were a second or even third draft, I would've been like, WOW, this has so much potential for knocking it out of the park. But it's the final, and it's just a tad sloppy.

Other criticism. I felt the romantic plot was shoehorned in. It was unconvincing to me, and then all of a sudden, the two characters were IN LOVE, and I was like, er, what? Also, lemme simply say I found the sex scenes somewhat ridiculous. Not that the writing was bad, but they were ridiculously conceived and paced.

Positives: Writing? Still fantastic. Story? Interesting. It's super colorful and cracky. If you're in the right mood, this book could be very profound. Also, I imagine this book would be killer if you were high while reading. I IMAGINE. Not that I'm advocating illegal drugs or anything. Hypothetically speaking though, if you were to read any book while on pot, this would be it. Characters? BEST PART OF THIS BOOK. Holy crap. Main character is funny but he gets tiresome eventually. But Gonzo the hypochondriac dwarf? Awesome. Balder the Norse god in the form of a yard gnome? Um, epic. I was laughing and crying and emotional all over the place about Balder. Then I remembered he was a yard gnome, and I felt idiotic. But how incredible is Libba that she can make me gushy over a YARD GNOME?

Verdict is, if you're a Libba fan, you should read the book because there ARE good things you can glean from it. If not, I'm not sure you'd have the patience to slog through it, even if the ending manages to partly redeem the chapters upon chapters of shenanigans-for-the-sake-of-shenanigans. The thing is, by a certain point, you're just numbed out to any crazy shit she throws at you because there's already been hundreds of pages of crazy shit before this latest crazy shit has been unveiled. And too much crazy shit, equals the shit is not crazy anymore.


  1. I loved Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle books, and I think she's an excellent writer. But I've hesitated to pick this one up because it seemed like it might be too wacky. Like, I think her humor is sometimes a little too out there for me, so this book struck me as the kind of book where people who GET HER HUMOR/HAVE HER HUMOR will absolutely love it. To be honest, this is also why I haven't picked up Beauty Queens because humor is, I think, often more subjective than other things.

    So yes, glad to hear your thoughts on this one. I think I'll still read it, but it's lower on my TBR list. However, I am giddy-excited for her new one, The Diviners, because it's got magic and is set in the 1920s; basically, it seems more in line with the Gemma Doyle stuff. Woohoo!

    1. Oh yeah, I'm psyched for THE DIVINERS. I haven't read BEAUTY QUEENS either, and I'm not inclined to now since I didn't particularly like BOVINE.