Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Read by Erik Davies Sixteen-year-old Cameron Smith is a disaffected loner/stoner teen trying to skate through life with minimum effort. He knows he’s a disappointment to his family and doesn’t care much about the people he hangs out with at school. The place he feels most at home is Yubi’s, the record store in town, but even there he collects CDs from an artist that he finds ridiculous. Then his life takes a turn towards the grim and scary. As he’s biking home one night, he encounters fire giants and meets a dark and malevolent knight. Further, he’s diagnosed with mad cow disease. Soon he’s in the hospital struggling to stay alive. Apart from a few incongruities like having teens on the same corridor as senior patients, these hospital scenes and the run-around with doctors seemed all too familiar. Where was the humor and adventure I remembered from the reviews I read when this was first published a few years back? Then Cameron is visited by Dulcie, a punk-rock angel who had appeared to him without talking a couple of times previously. Dulcie tells him that the world is about to end – the fire giants and the black knight have come through a wormhole created by the mysterious Dr. X, who vanished some years ago. Only Cameron, with his rogue prion-influenced brain, can find Dr. X and convince him to close the wormhole and keep reality from ending. To get there, he’ll need to follow clues on billboards and personal ads and use his intuition. He’ll also need to take the patient from the next bed with him. He’d met Gonzo, a Mexican-American hypochondriac video-game obsessed dwarf at school. Dulcie gives him the temporary health he needs for the trip, and Cameron and Gonzo are off. The already somewhat trippy story gets crazier yet as they have one adventure after another. They meet a garden gnome who claims to be the god Baldur under a curse, join a happiness cult, and more. Every so often, the story flips back to the hospital, so that it’s not clear if the adventure is really happening, is a product of Cameron’s failing brain, or if we’re looking at parallel realities. Music from multiple fictional artists weaves in and out of the story, along with Disney world, snow globes, and the Buddha Cow. Going Bovine is hilarious, extremely profane, filled with adventure, deep thoughts, and some sex. It won the Printz award for teen literature when it came out, and rightly so. I was blown away by all the strands woven together to make a story that so perfectly captures both the beauty and the tragedy of life. I listened to this on audio. Erik Davies had a perfect sounding teen voice for Cameron, though his girl’s voices were somewhat less convincing. For the most part, though, the narration was convincing enough to suck me right into the story.
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