Friday, December 17, 2010

Going Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray  (YA)
                I haven’t really been reading much because of exams, but this book  got me through the drab, desperate days of December.
Cameron is a slacker in every sense of the term. He doesn’t try hard. He doesn’t really have friends, and he can’t pay enough real attention to the people in his life to really get to know them and try to understand them. All he really does is smoke pot and make fun of the music of the Grande Tremeldo, who sings Portuguese love songs in a ridiculously high falsetto. His mom doesn’t really do anything, his sister is too popular to talk to him, and his physicist father may be having an affair with his research assistant. Cameron isn’t really happy with the life he has, but he’s too lazy and apathetic to try to turn things around. Then he gets diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, also known as Mad Cow.
He learns is that his brain is basically turning to Swiss Cheese and he is definitely going to die, very, very soon. Then, like all human beings, he gets mad. He’s only sixteen, and he hasn’t really done anything , which is partially because he is young, but also partially because of his own unwillingness to really live. Unfortunately, he’s now stuck in the hospital, hooked up to IV fluids. That’s when he meets Dulcie, a pink-haired Angel who tells him that only he can save the world. The only way to do it is to grab his hospital roommate Gonzo, a hypochondriac little person with a ridiculously overprotective mother, and go on the run to find Dr X, the only person who can stop the end of the world, and might even be able to save Cameron’s life. Cameron grabs Gonzo and goes on a road trip from New Orleans to Disney World, even picking up the Nordic god Balder, transfigured into a garden gnome, on the way.
This book is very surreal and definitely is inspired by Don Quixote, as it’s the book that Cameron was reading in class. Unfortunately, I never got very far in Quixote (but if someone could recommend a good translation I could try ) so I may be missing countless references. I think the key point though is that it’s only as he’s dying that Cameron tries to live. And boy does he live. He finds a  community where everyone has to be happy and equal in every single way, and he helps bring it down by exposing it as the totalitarian regime that it is. He’s a wanted fugitive, he falls in love, he plays the drums on stage in New Orleans. He fights the fire giants that he sees everywhere, and he faces the Wizard of Reckoning. Key to it all, is that everything might just be in his head. All of his adventures might be the last of his brain cells dying off, transforming his memories into some strange story that he’s telling himself. The question is: does it even matter as long as he’s having an actual life?
                I definitely cried, which I did not expect. There’s just something about  people taking chances and being good to each other that makes me sob. That’s just the way I work. I didn’t expect to like it so much, but I just love the surreal and the strange elements of the story. It was wild and crazy but it all made sense.  Cameron grew on me, as he slowly realized what he had been missing out on, and that life is about taking risks and being with people. And it’s such a bittersweet thing to learn, as you’re going to die.

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