Book Review: Going Bovine

Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Copyright date: 2009
Pages: 480
Format: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: B+
Award Won: Printz Award for 2010
Reason for Reading: My eldest granddaughter, Q (age 12.5), told me about the book after her sixth grade language-arts teacher read the first chapter to the class. We were both intrigued by the idea of the story. When I learned it won last year’s Printz Award, I requested it from the library.
Summary (from the publisher):

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.

What I Liked:

  • I more than liked the main character, Cameron. He has an acerbic but honest bite to everything he says and in his outlook on people and the world in general. And, that was before he knew he was dying. Cameron is also quite intelligent with a taste for quirkiness.
  • I liked the chapter sub-titles. Here are two examples: “Chapter Seven – In Which I Am Subject to the Slings and Arrows of Dinner with My Family”. Or “Chapter Twenty Six – In Which Some People’s Happiness Gets Its Butt Kicked and Gonzo and I Make Our Escape.”
  • I liked Cam’s 16-year-old view on school and adults in general. For example, the obsession of a teacher with correct answers on the state tests was laughable because it’s probably true.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I know I’m a prude when it comes to language and I know that’s how some people, including young teens, talk all the time. I’m just not comfortable reading it, especially in a 480 page book.
  • It was too long. I don’t mean the 480 pages. The last third of the book dragged for me and it seemed like the road trip went on and on forever. Of course, if I were Cam, I’d want it to keep on going too.
  • The last half was just a bit too woo-woo for me. I’ve had my own morphine-induced dreams and parts of this book seemed that way. Or maybe it was pot-induced. Anyway , it was too much fantasy for my taste.

I’m sure my list of why I wasn’t fond of the book will be things that will cause many readers to put this book on their To Read List. And that’s how it should be. I’m not the target audience for this story, but so many other people are. 

The author’s previous books, especially the Gemma Trilogy, have been best sellers and have been wildly embraced by many, as has Going Bovine. Ms. Bray is an excellent writer, a master storyteller, and a woman with a great sense of humor. Below is a link to an interview with the author. In the video she discusses Going Bovine while dressed in a cow costume.

About the Printz Award:

The Michael L. Printz Award is an annual award in the United States for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a school librarian from Topeka, Kansas, who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). The national award is sponsored by Booklist magazine and administered by YALSA, a division of the American Library Association. For more information on the award, visit here: YALSA

About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Fiction, Posts by Margot, YA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Book Review: Going Bovine

  1. Louise says:

    I’ve heard about this book from quite a number of different sources. I’d really like to try it. I agree that 480 pages is too long- for both adult books and YA ones.

  2. Sounds like an interesting book. Not sure I’ll give it a try, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I don’t think I’d like a book with all those fantastical elements. It’s too bad the story couldn’t have been done just with regular people!

  4. Heather says:

    I just got the audiobook and have been wanting to get to it. I’ve heard it’s pretty woo-woo at the end, but I heard that’s the point. You’re supposed to guess whether or not it was all some drug-induced whatever! It sounds pretty crazy and I think I’m in the mood for that right now. Excellent review!

    • Margot says:

      Thanks Heather. It felt pretty woo-woo to me all the way through. I’m curious how this will be in audio. I want to know your opinion when you finish.
      SPOILER ALERT: I’m a “happy-ever-after” person when it comes to stories so I’d like to think this guy is cured and lives forever. But, either way, the guy is on some kind of drug-induced trip. That’s what made the story seem like fantasy to me.

  5. BermudaOnion says:

    I love the fact that you and your granddaughter talk about books and influence each other’s reading!

  6. Margot says:

    I love it too Kathy. Q is a pretty mature reader so now she’s moving into YA and a few adult books so it’s even more fun. Her tastes tend to be different from mine but it allows us to experiment with new-to-us genres. She is currently reading The Help. I can’t wait to see what she thinks.

  7. Bumbles says:

    I think this sounds like a very creative YA tale – a mature subject dealt with using great humor and a character to root for. I was always more interested in fantastical, reality-bending aspects of writing when I was younger and less of a fuddy duddy. Nowadays it is hard to just go with it when I read that genre but I find that once I do, it is a fun trip – drug induced or otherwise ;0)

  8. Staci says:

    Great review and you’re right, my son would probably want to read this one!! 😀

  9. kaye says:

    Hmmmm . . . . I’ll have to think about it. I enjoyed your review.

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    I’ve never even heard of the Printz award so this is a new one for me. It still sounds good, but sometimes I feel prudish reading some YA books too 🙂

  11. Annie says:

    I ididn’t read young adult fiction for years ! Perhaps because I have no grand chidren !
    I like your post … and the funny cover of the book !

  12. Penelope says:

    Great review! Very thorough. I haven’t read this yet, but I love Libba Bray’s other books, so I’m going to read it one of these days. It’s a shame to hear about the language, though. I don’t particularly like to come across it in books, either.

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