Archive for September 17, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

bovineCameron, an underachieving sixteen-year-old, is interested in only one kind of music – a performer called the Great Tremolo who sings Portuguese love songs in falsetto accompanied by ukulele and recorder. Cameron, by modern measurements, is not America’s ideal teenager. He is turned off by school, indifferent to his family’s expectations, disgusted by working at a hamburger joint, and happy only when getting high or hanging out at a down and out music store.

After dropping a tray at work and punching a kid at school, Cameron ‘s parents seek medical help. The diagnosis is Creutzfeldt-Jakob or mad cow disease, a neurological sickness that affects the brain, destroying it in time. A patient has 4-6 months to live. There is no cure. Like the book Cameron is reading in school, Don Quixote, Cameron goes on a quest to find a cure. His ‘Sancho Panza’ is a mama’s boy, a dwarf named Gonzo. The love of his life is Dulcie, a sprite with feathery wings, who urges him to stick to his mission. His stead is a broken-down Cadillac known as Rocinante.

The windmills Cameron swats at are American high schools, reality TV shows, macho teens, infidelity, New age feel-good nostrums, and praise for unearned accomplishments. Besides Gonzo, Cameron gets help from a talking gnome, a music band, his knowledge about black holes, comics, love, and friendship.

Mixing physics, music, and mad cow disease in one novel is risky. Bray has written a sprawling book that tilts at modern windmills. It is only partially successful. It is overly long and lags in places, like the section spent in the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack ‘N ‘ Bowl. There, the humor of everyone always getting perfect scores while bowling fades after the first couple of strikes. It is unnecessary for the author to tell the reader that these kaleidoscope events are only in Cameron’s mind.

Most teens will find enough humor and diversion in this book to ignore the inevitable ending. Bray uses mad cow disease as the perfect vehicle for a kid to take on the world.

Lily Hecker,  Pelham.   Recommended

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September 17, 2009 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment


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