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If you like your writing linear, like little white picket fences surrounding a tidy green lawn, this book might not be for you. If you like your writing similar to little Russian nesting dolls, one opening to a smaller duplicate of itself, this book might not be for you.

But let’s just say you love John Irving with his unique characters and threads of subtle plot that tie themselves up into an inextricable knot in the end. And let’s also assume you adore Kurt Vonnegut with his snarky commentary on life and distinctive settings. Like your novels laugh-out-loud funny? Good. Throw all that in a snow globe, shake the snot out of it, and when the dust snow finally settles, well, there it is…the hilariously well-written Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

Bray’s first-person narration by her sixteen-year-old male protagonist, Cameron, is spot-on (I should know, I have a boy at home). Cam finds out he is dying of mad cow disease, which is just another added insult piled onto his already crappy life. He is offered a chance of survival from a punk-rock angel, who may or may not be a delusion related to his spongy brain. Going Bovine launches from there into the swirling chaos of a teen’s journey to find himself before it is too late and it is in this wild ride that Libba Bray weaves a tale worthy of a comparison to  Irving and Vonnegut.

Cameron’s ensuing road trip to save himself, accompanied by a midget and a garden gnome, feels like getting lost in a fun house while on Percocet. (Don’t ask.) Some passages made me snort with laughter, while others I had to go back and reread them just because it was such well-crafted prose. The author weaves social commentary throughout the odd tribulations Cam encounters, leaving the reader to question values and life’s purpose, as Cam is. The situations become more entangled, yet symbiotic, as the novel progresses, while fate drags Cam nearer to either a cure or his demise.

At novel’s end, you are standing in a room of mirrors. You see the now, the past, the future as each reflection is captured and multiplied. You are turning with Cam, quickly, dizzyingly, trying to find the you in you. If you escape intact, throw a quarter in the Fortune Telling machine and ask it, “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is my future?”  or… scarier still, “When will I die?” Going Bovine is a wild ride, one worth standing in line, the kind of ride you want to never stop, and the one you dream of late at night when the carnival has left town.

This YA novel will undoubtedly appeal to adult readers, too. Rated for ages 14+, the language and adult situations might be a bit too graphic for some, and the twisting plot devices will require a student who can keep track of the many threads that are weaving together throughout the novel. Going Bovine would make a great gift for high school or college-age guys, along with any adult who appreciates witty, riotous writing.

Coming in September to a bookstore near you! Click here to order from an indie bookstore.
Click here to see Libba Bray's Going Bovine website.

I first heard of Going Bovine when I attended an agent/author panel at NESCBWI, which was fascinating, and Barry Goldblatt was waxing eloquent about his bride, Libba Bray. (I could name drop and say I had dinner with him later, but really…he was on one end with his agent friends and I was FAR AWAY on the other, plus there were many successful writers between us…so actually, he probably didn’t even know I was there. ☺) But there we were, at dinner, and he was talking about “Libba Bray” this and Libba Bray” that, until I thought maybe it was her name, you know, like a Cher or Madonna…Libbabray. Later I found him on FB and he was again going on and on about Libba Bray (“@libbabray”) and I was thinking to myself, “Isn’t that adorable how gaga he is over her?” and “Now really, how brilliant could she be, really?” Then I read Going Bovine and I must say, Barry, you were right. She is every bit of brilliant you claimed and then some. 

P.S. (Yes, I know she already was a New York Times best selling author, but I like to find these things out for myself.)


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful review! I love this book. It is brilliant and makes my head hurt in the best of ways.

Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
I know, she is an amazing writer - I laughed, chortled, and giggled all the way through. It was like the wildest roller coaster I've ever ridden!
Jul. 21st, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
She IS brilliant. I have only read the excerpt and can't wait to read the book--which I have pre-ordered. What an incredible, wonderful premise. And she is such a precise, pulse-beat, you-are-there! writer.

kathleen duey
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
Re: Libba
You will love it, of that I'm sure. Thanks for chiming in - you are so right about her writing style!
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
Love this review - and it makes me want to read the book even more. Don't worry too much if your copy disappears after your dinner party this weekend...
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
Everyone keeps trying to steal it off my bookshelf and I keep telling them it is reserved for you! (You might have to arm wrestle my boy for it, though...)
Sep. 28th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Great review! I finished up Going Bovine last week. Although, I'm a college-age woman and I loved it to pieces...so I don't think it will just be enjoyed by boys!
Sep. 28th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know you liked the review. Isn't it such a great novel? I'm so glad you loved it as much as I did...I'm looking forward to hearing the buzz about it now...from guys & gals alike! - good point! :-)
Nov. 15th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
I love this book!!!!
Emilie K. SMS 4th period
Nov. 15th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for chiming in, Emilie! As mom to a college-aged guy, I love how realistic the dialog was in this novel. The bizarre situations made me laugh, too! Did your brother read this?
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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