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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Going Bovine* by Libba Bray- young adult book review
Also by Libba Bray:

The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle Trilogy)
Going Bovine
by Libba Bray
Grades 8+ 496 pages Delacorte September 2009 Hardcover    

Going Bovine, by the bestselling author of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (including The Sweet Far Thing) Libba Bray, is a dark, absurdist comedy that takes a tragic situation - being afflicted with Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Mad Cow) disease - and transforms it into a Don Quixote-like reading experience guaranteed to delight and inspire its readers.

Sixteen-year-old Cameron Smith is a fairly typical disaffected teenager, not that interested in school, whose offbeat tastes in music include the Copenhagen Interpretation, made up of Inuits and the Great Tremelo, a ukele-playing guy who sings in a falsetto voice. He smokes the occasional joint in the high school restroom and at home, has a crush on a cheerleader - Staci Johnson - and is mostly content with coasting along. It takes contracting Mad Cow disease, which heís told is fatal, to make him live his life to its fullest.

A cute punked-out angel named Dulcie visits him first at his home then at the hospital, telling him to ďFollow the featherĒ and leaving a pink feather behind. She tells him to look for signs, billboards, and other clues that will eventually lead him to a mysterious physicist, Dr. X, who can cure him. His quest is more important than finding a cure just for himself, as Dr. Xís travels through different dimensions, alternate worlds and times have caused dark energy to spill into our world, something that could potentially end in Ragnarok - the end of days.

Cam escapes from the hospital heís in with Gonzo, a dwarf and fellow student having tests run on him at the behest of his overprotective mother. Eventually they also include in their group Balder, a Norse god whom the trickster god Loki has caused to look like a lawn gnome.

Quirky is an apt description for this novel. Itís the type of book you donít want to see end but to keep reading because you get so caught up in the adventures of the characters you want to see what happens to them next, and you hope all ends well for them. Like Don Quixote, the book Cam is reading in his English class before he learns that he has a fatal disease, Going Bovine is a picaresque sort of novel in which Cam, Gonzo, and Balder travel to New Orleans in search of clues and by car to Florida. Dulcie also tells Cam heíll find a way to help out Gonzo, and Balder wants to reach the shore where he is convinced heíll be able to board a ship that will take him back to Valhalla.

While youíre reading Going Bovine, youíll be kept wondering if the adventures that Cam and his friends go on and their fight to save his life and the world are real, or if theyíre just a product of his mind as he lies in the hospital. Heís been given a special magical bracelet by Dulcie, made up of segments representing different parts of Disney World, like Frontier Land and Tomorrow Land. As time goes by, each segment begins to fade out, indicating the two-week time period Dulcie has given him is running out.

His sleep includes dreams of the hospital and Grace, the nurse who takes care of him - at least, thatís what he thinks when heís awake. He dreams of his parents visiting him, his sister, Jenna, Staci Johnson, and others. But as we read along, another possibility is presented to us: that everything that occurs - all of his adventures, his battles against fire giants and the evil Wizard of Reckoning who are trying to stop him from locating Dr. X - are the dreams and imaginings of his dying brain.

Weíre made to think, as we are taken along for the highly entertaining E-Ride that is Going Bovine, about what is truly important in our lives, about cherishing life and living each moment to its fullest. I have not read any of Libba Brayís other novels, but if the Gemma Doyle books are at all as good as Going Bovine, Iíd like to check them out, too.

Going Bovine is a novel that young adults and older ones of both sexes will heartily enjoy reading, a wild combination of adventure, fantasy, and Norse mythology that you wonít want to end. It has a bittersweet conclusion, one which Iíd prefer ended a different, happier way (though Cam, it can be argued, goes on to better things), but in all, Iíd definitely recommend Going Bovine. Itís one of the best Y/A novels Iíve ever read, and I think itíll become a classic of YA literature in the coming years.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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