Going Bovine

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Can Cameron find what he’s looking for?

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, ...

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Audio CD Good 12 AUDIO CDs, polished for your satisfaction for a worthwhile set, in the clamshell case withdrawn from the library collection. Some shelf wear and library ... marking to the box and the CDs. The Audio CDs sit in individual slots, protected and clear sounding. Enjoy this AUDIO CD performance. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Can Cameron find what he’s looking for?

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

2010 Michael L. Printz Award winner

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Editorial Reviews

Lisa Von Drasek
…manages to turn a hopeless situation into a hilarious and hallucinatory quest, featuring an asthmatic teenage dwarf, Gonzo; a pink-haired angel in combat boots, Dulcie; and Balder, a Norse god who is cursed with the form of a garden gnome…Libba Bray not only breaks the mold of the ubiquitous dying-teenager genre—she smashes it and grinds the tiny pieces into the sidewalk. For the record, I'd go anywhere she wanted to take me.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Cameron Smith, 16, is slumming through high school, overshadowed by a sister “pre-majoring in perfection,” while working (ineptly) at the Buddha Burger. Then something happens to make him the focus of his family's attention: he contracts mad cow disease. What takes place after he is hospitalized is either that a gorgeous angel persuades him to search for a cure that will also save the world, or that he has a vivid hallucination brought on by the disease. Either way, what readers have is an absurdist comedy in which Cameron, Gonzo (a neurotic dwarf) and Balder (a Norse god cursed to appear as a yard gnome) go on a quixotic road trip during which they learn about string theory, wormholes and true love en route to Disney World. Bray's surreal humor may surprise fans of her historical fantasies about Gemma Doyle, as she trains her satirical eye on modern education, American materialism and religious cults (the smoothie-drinking members of the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'N' Bowl). Offer this to fans of Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy seeking more inspired lunacy. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Bovine, as in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, that is to say, mad cow disease, which sixteen-year-old Cameron is not thrilled to find out he has, given that this is an invariably "fatal virus that eats holes in your brain." Cameron used to think "it would be cool to die young. Honestly, things weren't going so well in the life department. Death seemed infinitely more glamorous and, you know, kind of hard to f—- up." But the trouble is that he has never really lived. So it's time for a road trip, accompanied by a germ-phobic dwarf, a Norse god yard gnome come to life, and a tough-talking angel: maybe together they can find the mysterious Dr. X who offers the only hope of a cure - and in the process save the world from Dr. X's dark energy that otherwise is going to destroy the universe. Oh, and maybe in the process Cameron can finally understand jazz, lose his virginity, become the object of a nationwide manhunt, bowl a lot of strikes, and eat a lot of vanilla smoothies. This is a huge book in every way: an epic, picaresque 480-page journey; a scathingly observed social satire of the ways in which we numb ourselves to avoid the pain and risk of actually engaging with our lives; a stay-up-late-to-finish-it page-turner; and a sprawling, hilarious, and deeply moving meditation on what it is, in the end, that makes life worth living. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Laura Panter
Sixteen-year-old Cameron Smith is a social outcast and known slacker. He has no desire to care about anything in life until he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, otherwise known as mad cow disease, and discovers that he is going to die. As Cameron's health continues to worsen, he sinks into a dreamland that resembles a world on a bad drug trip. Hope arrives in this parallel universe with punk angel, Dulcie, who makes Cameron believe there is a cure for his illness. Cam's journey for that cure takes him on a cross-country road trip from Texas to Florida where he makes friends with a dwarf nicknamed Gonzo and a talking garden gnome who believes himself to be the Viking god Baldar. Together they encounter mythical jazz musicians, battle fire giants, escape a happiness cult, meet universe-hopping physicists, dodge wacked-out snow-globe police, and befriend fame-obsessed teenagers. Bray portrays Cameron so realistically that he is every teen struggling with his or her identity. At times, readers will both love and hate Cameron as his adventures are alternately comical, nail biting, and heart wrenching. Readers will be rooting for Cameron to overcome his obstacles to save himself and claim his love for Dulcie. The novel is a laugh-out-loud, tear-jerking, fantastical voyage into the meaning of what is real in life and how someone can learn to live. It is a must-purchase for any libraries wanting to reach out to all teens who need to know there are stories out there for them. Reviewer: Laura Panter
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this ambitious novel, Cameron, a 16-year-old slacker whose somewhat dysfunctional family has just about given up on him, as perhaps he himself has, when his diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, "mad cow" disease, reunites them, if too late. The heart of the story, though, is a hallucinatory—or is it?—quest with many parallels to the hopeless but inspirational efforts of Don Quixote, about whom Cameron had been reading before his illness. Just like the crazy—or was he?—Spaniard, Cam is motivated to go on a journey by a sort of Dulcinea. His pink-haired, white-winged version goes by Dulcie and leads him to take up arms against the Dark Wizard and fire giants that attack him intermittently, and to find a missing Dr. X, who can both help save the world and cure him. Cameron's Sancho is a Mexican-American dwarf, game-master hypochondriac he met in the pot smokers' bathroom at school who later turns up as his hospital roommate. Bray blends in a hearty dose of satire on the road trip as Cameron leaves his Texas deathbed—or does he?—to battle evil forces with a legendary jazz horn player, to escape the evil clutches of a happiness cult, to experiment with cloistered scientists trying to solve the mysteries of the universe, and to save a yard gnome embodying a Viking god from the clutches of the materialistic, fame-obsessed MTV-culture clones who shun individual thought. It's a trip worth taking, though meandering and message-driven at times. Some teens may check out before Cameron makes it to his final destination, but many will enjoy asking themselves the questions both deep and shallow that pop up along the way.—Suzanne Gordon, PeachtreeRidge High School, Suwanee, GA
Kirkus Reviews
In a marked departure from her Victorian-era Gemma Doyle trilogy, Bray offers a novel about a road trip undertaken by surly Cameron, a 16-year-old mad cow-disease sufferer, Gonzo, his hypochondriac dwarf hospital roommate, and a sentient garden gnome who is actually the Norse god Balder. This decidedly fantastical premise mixes with armchair physics and time-travel theory as they make their way from Texas to Florida. Or possibly Cameron is just hallucinating his way through his last days in a hospital bed. Whichever view of this at times too-sprawling tale readers take, along the way there is plenty of delightfully funny dialogue ("Okay, Balder? Could you and your Norse goodness do me a solid and take a hike? I need a minute here") and enough real character development, in spite of all the purposefully zany details, to cause genuine concern for their respective fates. Fans of the author's previous works will not be disappointed, and it may appeal to science-fiction and fantasy fans with a taste for dry humor as well. (Fantasy. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, August 1, 2009:
"An unforgettable, nearly indefinable fantasy adventure."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 3, 2009:
"Bray's surreal humor may surprise fans."

Melanie Hundley
Mad Cow Disease? Who gets that? All Cameron wanted to do was get through high school with minimal effort; then he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob (Mad Cow Disease). This diagnosis changes Cameron's life and his relationship with his relatively dysfunctional family. Before his illness, Cameron had been reading the story of Don Quixote, and as his illness progresses, he finds himself battling Dark Wizards and Fire Giants. Cameron's battles, or hallucinations, parallel Don Quixote's in both their epic nature and their hopelessness. His Dulcinea, a punk angel with a serious sugar habit, tells him there is a cure for his illness if he will search for it. Cameron embarks on the wild journey, or hallucination, joined by his Sancho, named Gonzo, a death-obsessed master gamer. He and Gonzo battle cults and vigilantes, encounter physicists and jazz musicians, all in the hope of finding the cure and what matters most in life. Reviewer: Melanie Hundley
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—In Libba Bray's unconventional novel, winner of the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award, Cameron, the 16-year-old down-and-out protagonist, meanders through varied phantasmagoric experiences after being diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob ("mad cow") disease. Cam has given up trying to succeed at home, in school, or as one of the cool kids. Instead, he sinks further into disassociation from his world until he is visited by Dulcie (reminiscent of Quixote's Dulcinea), a possibly hallucinatory punk/angel, who convinces Cam there could be a cure, if he is willing to assume great risks in searching for it. And so begins Cam's bizarre quest to thwart evil, unravel the mystery of the disappearing Dr. X—who may hold the key to a cure, but might also be plotting to destroy the world—and beat his terminal diagnosis. Cam is accompanied on this dark roadtrip of an increasingly spongy mind by Dulcie, a hypochondriacal dwarf named Gonzo, and a resilient yard gnome who could possibly be the ancient Viking god, Balder. Erik Davies ably narrates this psychedelic ride, with a deft touch of teenage angst and ennui. There is so much going on that listeners could easily lose the twisting thread in an instant of inattention. Filled with slang, four letter words, humor, pathos, satire, absurdities, sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, and the fight between good and evil, this is not a journey for the faint of heart.—Roxanne Spencer, Educational Resources Center, Western Kentucky University Libraries, Bowling Green
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739385579
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Libba Bray is the author of the New York Times bestselling Gemma Doyle Trilogy, which comprises the novels A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She has written short stories about everything from Cheap Trick concerts to The Rocky Horror Picture Show devotees to meeting Satan worshippers on summer vacation. Libba lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and two cats. Her dream is to stop sucking so badly at drums in Rock Band. You may visit her at www.libbabray.com, and you don’t even have to call first.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
In Which I Introduce Myself

The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.

I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage.

Like Career Day? Really? Do we need to devote an entire six hours out of the high school year to having “life counselors” tell you all the jobs you could potentially blow at? Is there a reason for dodgeball? Pep rallies? Rad soda commercials featuring Parker Day’s smug, fake-tanned face? I ask you.

But back to the best day of my life, Disney, and my near-death experience.

I know what you’re thinking: WTF? Who dies at Disney World? It’s full of spinning teacups and magical princesses and big-assed chipmunks walking around waving like it’s absolutely normal for jumbo-sized stuffed animals to come to life and pose for photo ops. Like, seriously.

I don’t remember a whole lot about it. Like I said, I was five. I do remember that it was hot. Surreal hot. The kind of hot that makes people shell out their life savings for a bottle of water without even bitching about it. Even the stuffed animals started looking less like smiling, playful woodland creatures and more like furry POWs on a forced march through Toonland. That’s how we ended up on the subterranean It’s a Small World ride and how I nearly bit it at the place where America goes for fun.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the Small World ride. If so, you can skip this next part. Honestly, you won’t hurt my feelings, and I won’t tell the other people reading this what an asshole you are the minute you go into the other room.

Where was I?

Oh, right—so much we share, time aware, small world. After all.

So. Small World ride, brief sum-up: Long-ass wait in incredibly slow-moving line. Then you’re put into this floating barge and set adrift on a river that winds through a smiling underworld of animatronic kids from every country on the planet singing along in their various native tongues to the extremely catchy, upbeat song.

Did I mention it’s about a ten-minute ride?

Of the same song?

In English, Spanish, Swahili, and Japanese?

I’m not going to lie to you; I loved it. Dude, I said to myself, this is the shit. Or something like that in five-year-old speak. I want to live in this new Utopia of singing children of all nations. With luck, the Mexican kids will let me wear their que festivo sombreros. And the smiling Swedes will welcome me into their happy Nordic hoedown. Välkommen, y’all. I will ride the pink fuzzy camel in some vaguely defined Middle Eastern country (but the one with pink fuzzy camels) and shake a leg with the can-can dancers in Gay Paree.

Bonjour.

Bienvenido.

Guten Tag.

Jambo.

I was with the three people who were my world—Mom, Dad, my twin sister, Jenna—and for one crazy moment, we were all laughing and smiling and sharing the same experience, and it was good. Maybe it was too good. Because I started to get scared.

I don’t know exactly how I made the connection, but right around Iceland, apparently, I got the idea that this was the after-life. Sure, I had heatstroke and had eaten enough sugar to induce coma, but really, it makes sense in a weird way. It’s dark. It’s creepy. And suddenly, everybody’s getting along a little too well, singing the same song. Or maybe it had to do with my mom. She used to teach English classics, heavy on the mythology, at the university B.C. (Before Children) and liked to pepper her bedtime stories with occasional bits about Valhalla or Ovid or the River Styx leading to the underworld and other cheery sweet-dreams matter. We’re a fun crew. You should see us on holidays.

Whatever it was, I was convinced that this ride was where you went to die. I would be separated from my family forever and end up in some part of the underworld where smiling kid robots in boater hats sang nonstop in Portuguese. I had to keep that from happening. And then—O Happy Day! Salvation! Right behind the Eskimo igloo (this was before they were the more politically correct but slightly naughty-sounding Inuits), I saw this little door.

“Mommy, where does that door go to?” I asked.

“I don’t know, honey.”

We were headed for certain death on the River Styx. But somehow I knew that if I could just get to that little door, everything would be okay. I could stop the ride and save us all. That was pretty much it for me. My five-year-old freak-out meter totally tripped. I slipped free of the seat and splashed into the fishy-smelling water, away from the doe-eyed, pinafored girl puppet singing, “En värld full av skratt, en värld av tårar” (Swedish, I’m told, for “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears”).

The thing is, I didn’t know how to swim yet. But apparently, I was pretty good at sinking. You know that warning about how kids can drown in very little water? Quite true if the kid panics and forgets to close his mouth. You can imagine my surprise when the water hit my lungs and I did not immediately start singing, “There’s so much that we share.”

The last thing I remember before I started to lose consciousness was my mom screaming to stop the ride while crushing Jenna to her chest in case she got the urge to jump too. Above me, lights and sound blended into a wavy distortion, everything muted like a carnival heard from a mile away. And then I had the weirdest thought: They’re stopping the ride. I got them to stop the ride.

I don’t remember a whole lot after that, just fuzzy memories filled in by other people’s memories. The story goes that my dad dove in and pulled me out, dropping me right beside the igloo, and administered CPR. Official Disney cast members scampered out along the narrow edge of EskimoSoontoBeInuit-land, yammering into their walkie-talkies that the situation was under control. Slack-jawed tourists snapped pictures. An official Disney ambulance came and whisked me away to an ER, where I was pronounced pukey but okay. We went back to the park for free—I guess they were afraid we’d sue—and I got to go on the rides as much as I wanted without waiting in line at all because everybody was just so glad I was alive. It was the best vacation we ever took. Of course, I think it was also the last vacation we ever took.

It was Mom who tried to get the answers out of me later, once Jenna had fallen asleep and Dad was nursing his nerves with a vodka tonic, courtesy of the hotel’s minibar. I was sitting in the bathtub with the nonskid flower appliqués on the bottom. It had taken two shampoos to get the flotsam and jetsam of a small world out of my hair.

“Cameron,” she asked, pulling me onto her lap for a vigorous towel-drying. “Why did you jump into the water, honey? Did the ride scare you?”

I didn’t know how to answer her, so I just nodded. All the adrenaline I’d felt earlier seemed to pool in my limbs, weighing me down.

“Oh, honey, you know it’s not real, don’t you? It’s just a ride.”

“Just a ride,” I repeated, and felt it sink in deep.

The thing is, before they pulled me out, everything had seemed made of magic. Like I really believed in this crazy dream. But the minute I came to on the hard, glittery, spray-painted, fake snow and saw that marionette boy pulling the same plastic fish out of the hole again and again, I realized it was all a big fake. The realest thing I’d ever experienced was that moment under the water when I almost died.

And in a way, I’ve been dying ever since.

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