Going Bovine

Going Bovine

by Libba Bray


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385733984
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 09/28/2010
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 115,350
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: HL680L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible BeautyRebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going BovineBeauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats. Visit her at www.libbabray.com and at @libbabray on Twitter and Instagram.

Read an Excerpt

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.



Guten Tag.


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 memo?ries 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

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."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Going Bovine 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 310 reviews.
neji_pwnz More than 1 year ago
Wow, the book got a prize! I'm not surprised; it is possibly the most random, hilarious story I have ever read. If you're looking for something pretty much completely random and pointless that you will never quit laughing at/about or quoting, then look no further than "Going Bovine": you will not be disappointed! I think that it's best for geeky types: there are a number of references to the science of parallel dimensions, supercolliders, and my hero, Stephen Hawking. :D Not hard to grasp, though. Just really, really funny.
gcsoa More than 1 year ago
As a person who is constantly reading, it's a little easy to slip into that stream, the mainstream of books that are all sort of the same. And I'm not just talking about vampire romances, but more like those recommended feel-good books of the summer and the year's best fantasy novels. It was in the middle of my search for something different, something truly good, that I found Going Bovine. The first thing that got me was, yes, the cow with the gnome tucked under one hoof on the cover. I mean, seriously. That is pretty cool. Also, the author, Libba Bray, according to the 'about the author' on the back tab has a life dream of getting better at the drums on Rockband. I felt we immediately bonded even before page 1. Honestly, I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started, just that this kid got Mad Cow Disease and apparently drove across the nation. When I began reading it surprised me how deep the thoughts were running through this teenager's mind, and I instantly was hooked on the language and what this narrator had to tell me. It is set in the perfect small Texas town, with this perfect, quirky 16-year-old Cameron to guide us through the problems of his high-school life. He himself, is a cheesy-music loving, pot-smoking, sarcastic loser with the popular, pretty sister he has to deal with in his same grade. But everything changes when he begins to go through spasms in the middle of class and experiences sudden hallucinations of human-destroying fire giants. The doctors tell his family Cameron has been diagnosed with the human form of Mad Cow Disease, the disease that makes cows go... well, mad. And unfortunately, it does the same to humans. It gets worse and worse with many more mirages in his mind- feathers left for him with messages on them, strange websites telling of a cosmic tear in the universe... Cameron eventually blacks out after a particularly bad episode and is taken to the hospital. This is where the book gets very interesting. It is written in first-person, no doubt the best way to personally escort us into Cameron's mind, but Cameron has lost grasp on what is truly real. Though he's in the hospital for the whole time, within his mind, he is traveling cross-country, searching for a cure with a dwarf named Gonzo and a talking invincible yard gnome with the wisdom of Dulcie to guide the way, a winged punk angel with quite a thing for sugary foods. Cameron learns what's truly important, why living is living, and why death is a part of it along the way of this semi-epic, hilarious tale of space-knights, famous jazz-horns and of course, Disney World. This book had me involved the whole time, following the maybe-real journey into Cameron's mind, and loving it all the while. Definitely one of my favorite books of all time, and that's saying a lot. I recommend this to readers, non-readers, people who like cows, or are part of a happiness-cult that supports perfect bowling. (Yes, that last one is a part from the book.) Going Bovine, a truly excellent novel worth checking out and reading at least six times. So go follow Cameron in this book, and let's hope you become insane along the way.
Lindsey_Miller More than 1 year ago
First off, I know one ought not to judge a book by the cover, but how could I not be interested in a book called Going Bovine with a standing cow holding a garden gnome? Also, I would say that the story is not entirely what I expected it to be, but considering the description, a story like this could be just about anything. Seriously though, punk rock angel with pink wings, blobby fire demon things that destroy stuff, and a bad guy that takes the form of a knight with a space helmet. How can you not be surprised every few pages? All that said, it was far more like an epic story such as The Odyssey or The Aeneid than I would have thought it to be. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Bray didn't attempt to mirror something of epic legend through each of the scenarios throughout book. It does start out a bit slow, but once you get past the first 150 pages or so, it really picks up. Cameron is also not necessarily the character you would root for because of his lethargic outlook on life, but since he narrates it, you grow to love his sardonic inner dialogue. I actually laughed out loud a few times. I recommend this book to lovers of eccentric fantasies with a heavy helping of satire. -Lindsey Miller, www.lindseyslibrary.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I laughed out loud reading the acknowledgements so I knew I was in for a good ride. Libba Bray has her finger on the pulse of the American teenager, in fact, I was continually amazed how she was able to get inside the head of the modern teenage male. The book is clever, witty, edgy, emotional and so imaginative! The characters are very current, comical and accurate but refrain from being simple stereotypes. The story is a wild fantasy and topic not often explored in teen lit. Libba Bray has found a way to allow us all to experience what is important at 17 by putting her main character in a life & death situation. I still find myself thinking about the ending. The book had been compared to my favorite book CATCHER IN THE RYE so I picked it up to preview it before giving it to my 13yr old daughter. After reading it, I think she needs to wait t o read it until she is closer to 16. Not just because of language and sexual content, but because I don't think the book will be anything but "sensational" until she can actually relate to the characters emotionally. I recommend this book for teens in high school and especially their parents so they can get inside their teen's head and remember how we saw the world when we were young.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw this book in my schools library numerous times but never read it, until one day I decided to give it a try. Reading Going Bovine was one of the best choices i have ever made. Through out the entire story I was laughing uncontrolably and then sobbing like there was no tommorow. Going Bovine makes you realize how fragile and short life really is and that you need to do those things you have always wanted to do, that you need to take that chance because you never know what could happen. This is now my favourite book and I reccomend it to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book it was written thoughtfully and says things some autors are hesitant to say (like the matter of male/female attraction)
PenningrothRac More than 1 year ago
Cameron Smith was born below average, and his all-too-perfect twin sister Jenna got all the luck. Seriously. When Cameron is diagnosed with Mad Cow disease, his whole life grinds to a halt. No more smoking weed in the fourth floor men's bathroom, no more working long hours at the Buddha Burger, and no more dealing with a despondent father. After being moved to the hospital, an angel appears to him. The angel asks a very real question- do you want to die in here having done nothing with your life? Cameron is scared, so he decides that he wants to live a real life in the few weeks he has left. Now that he is ready to go, he decides to bring his new friend from school. His new friend is a death-obsessed video gaming dwarf nicknamed Gonzo. As Cameron and Gonzo go on their journey to save the world from dark energy, as the angel Dulcie told them, they meet strange people and do strange things. This story is full of randomness and laughter. The funny parts still hold meaning, and the deeper theme of living life is always shown. My favorite things about the book was the total randomness and cleverness shown in the book. With evil Wizards, fire giants, Norse gods, party houses, and a punk-rock angel, this story never failed to keep you guessing. The ending was particularly fantastic, but you'll have to read it to find that out now won't you? I recommend this book for anyone who can follow a crazy story and has the maturity to handle a more adult-like book. I give this book five stars because of the fantastic randomness of this book. Read it, and you won't regret it. Plus, you get lots of "why does your book have a cow carrying a lawn gnome on the front"s which are always interesting... So read the book and it will be one of the greatest stories you will ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. Just wow. This book... read it. Pay no attention whatsoever to the bad comments on this book, for they are the most ill deserved reveiws in history. This book is definitely one of the greatest books I've ever read, and that's really saying something considering the sheer amount I read. I read the first half of this book while on a cruise, and had to leave the book aboard as it belonged to the ship's library. Needless to say I had to track this book down the minute I hit solid land. The charachters, the plot, the absolute maniac absurdity of this book, just.......WOW? I definitely reccomend this book to anyone who can read, and a few that can't. AND THE PLOT TWIST OMG
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a person who never reads. Ever. I had to pick up this book for summer reading and i was literally glued to it. For a girl who rarely reads, i think ive finally enjoyed reading because of this book. I feel like i was transported through time to a different world and i could clearly see every character and every scene. This has never happened to me. Although i may have to reread the last chapter for clarification, i am so glad i read this book. Hats off to thr author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely stunning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best, most random, heartful, odd, energetic, funny, emotional (in it's own ways), and creative teen read EVER WRITTEN! I recomend for ages 13 and up. This novel was just. Plain. Awesome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book i have ever read . I wish that more books were like it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Libba Bray absolutely flabbergasts me. I had read all of the Gemma Doyle books and could hardly believe someone who wrote something like that could write something so hilarious. I laughed and I cried and found it amazing how she could mention something in the beginning of the book, only to have it be a key point much later in the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though i agree that there is so much swearing and definately something anyone under 15 or maybe 14 shouldnt read, it was really funny and amazing. the ending was really sad and i sort of wish it was happier, but i think it just makes it so much more memorable. :) loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laughed from beginning to end
Goddess_Beth More than 1 year ago
It's not a surprise that I loved this book, given what a fan of Libba Bray's writing I am. But I was a bit surprised at the emotional impact this tale packed. It's hard to describe: part coming-of-age, part social satire, part straight fiction, but all humor and cheek. The premise is that the main character, a teenage guy who is sarcastic and a bit of a loner, has a rare brain disease. His journey is amazing, but Bray always gives us hints: is he on an actual quest? Or is this the brain damage altering his perception of reality? Or is he even still alive, and dreaming this? I won't deny it- I cried during this book. I also put it down and thought about the big-picture questions a few times. I also stayed up way too late, many nights in a row, in order to read "just one more chapter". The character voices are so unique and individual, and I absolutely love the attitudes they have. They're not spot-on to my memory of the teenager experience, but these characters are people I would want to hang out with right now. And of course, there's plenty of humor and satire. This is definitely a new favorite. I highly recommend it for everyone, across the board.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really interesting,funny, unique, and original
titania86 More than 1 year ago
Cameron Smith was an apathetic, wallflower kind of kid in high school. He was a slacker, who was uninterested in college and smoked pot in the bathroom during school. He also has a perfect, perky sister that makes him look even worse by comparison. That is, until his uncontrollable movements and hallucinations are diagnosed as Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases, AKA mad cow disease. This disease is a prion (mutated protein) that pretty much pokes holes in the brain. It's incurable and fatal. He is spurred by a cute punk rock angel named Dulcie to go on a quest to save the world (and find a cure to his disease) along with a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo and a Norse god turned lawn gnome named Balder. Along the way, Cameron battles evil with a legendary jazz musician in New Orleans, narrowly escapes from a crazy happiness cult, helps a group of scientists with an experiment, and goes to Disney World. Libba Bray has created a crazy and unique retelling of Don Quixote. I actually didn't realize it was based on a specific novel until I read other reviews of it. I saw it as more of a modern version of the hero journey in mythology as illustrated by Joseph Campbell. Although the book is almost 500 pages long, I was completely sucked in and wanted to read it in one sitting. All of the characters were striking, original, and complete. Cameron was initially not a very likable character. He was rude to his friends and family and was just generally selfish. From the initial diagnosis to the end of the novel, he undergoes a transformation with every person he meets and every crazy situation he encounters. He slowly turns into a true hero. He gains appreciation for music and develops close relationships with the people around him. The things he revered in his old life are revealed to be shallow and meaningless in the new one. The journey was largely an internal one for Cameron. It can even be debated if the journey actually happened at all or if it was just the product of a deteriorating mind. This isn't a typical teen novel. It's one of the most unique books I have ever read in the young adult genre. I really respect the author that writes teen characters that curse and have sex because real teenagers (and people in general) curse and have sex. It's a part of life and pretending it doesn't exist or that's not how real people act does more harm than good in the lives of teenagers. I really enjoyed this novel. It was funny, tragic, and disturbing at times. I had so much fun the wild ride with Cameron and his friends. My only complaint was that the ending took a little bit away from my enjoyment of the novel. I felt it could have been more ambiguous in the end and a little less off the wall. Other than that it was awesome. I would recommend this book to pretty much anybody.
TheShort1 More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot of funny & weird books (Hiaasen, Christopher Moore,etc.), but this was different....only word that seems to fit. As it starts we are introduced to Cameron, a rebellious teenage boy, who is no stranger to getting into trouble. However, Cameron starts doing things he didn't mean to do, like dropping things. He thinks nothing of it and neither does anyone who knows him, because he is usually such and ornery kid. Soon, he has an episode which may be an hallucination or some kind of a seizure, which sends him to the hospital for tests. It is discoverd that he has mad cow disease (big bummer and fatal). What follows is the story of his stay in the hospital and his quest to find a cure and save the world....maybe. Whether it's an hallucination or real, it's a funny, poingnant, sweet, philosophical epic. He is joined on his quest by a gaming dwarf, a garden gnome, and an angel.
NikkiT More than 1 year ago
While it may not have been exactly the best book ever, I truly dug the tone it presented. It was exactly how I felt at the time and I couldn't have asked for a better book to read. I definitely recommend it. Read it; trust me you'll like it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved this book! i read all 480 pages in two days! it was a bit confusing at times but it eventually explains everything! there is a lot of language used in this book...but that's fine with me i guess...i kind of just ignored it. and the ending is really shocking! kinda...my point is i reccomend it!
SunnySD on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Life - it's complicated. And sometimes the only way to really live is to die. When terminal slacker Cameron Smith finds out he has a fatal case of mad cow disease he doesn't want to believe it at first. But when he starts seeing punk angels, fire monsters, and talking garden gnomes - and receives a quest to save the world - he starts believing. Join Cameron, Gonzo, Balder and an odd cast of here and gone again figments (or are they?) on a mad dash to spring break in Daytona.A completely different story than I'd expected given what I'd heard about it. Raw, convoluted, and a bit jarring in places, Bray didn't pull too many punches. This should appeal to a wide audience on several different levels.
newanddifferent on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a surreal novel about a kid who gets Mad Cow Disease and loses his mind. He has a crazy adventure in his mind: He believes that an angel visits him to tell him about a scientist who has warped the dimensions of the earth. It is up to him, 16 year old Cameron Smith, to save the world and by doing so, cure his illness. Accompanied by his best friend (a dwarf) and a talking yard gnome, he travels the country and has completely bewildering experiences.The tone of this book is very informal, as the writer seemed to be going for a Holden Caulfield - like narrative voice. He's likeable and the characters do grow over the course of the novel, but I didn't really like just how absurd everything was. As an adult, I knew to just keep reading, but I think many readers could get confused about reality. The book's content and writing make me thing of a younger YA reader (around 12 years) but a reader that young may not enjoy walking the line between reality and the surreal.
christina4703 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Cameron has been diagnosed with a rare but fatal disease. He is going to die. Soon. So when a punk rock angel named Dulcie tells him he can be cured if he goes on a quest, he goes. Because that's what you do when you're going to die at sixteen years old. Along for the ride are Gonzo, a grumpy hypochondriac dwarf, and Balder, a former Norse god imprisoned in the body of a lawn gnome. But the absurdity of the journey leads Cameron to wonder whether this whole crazy trip is nothing but a fever dream as he lies in his bed at the hospital. The book begs the question, "What exactly is reality? And how is your reality any better than mine?" Well, that and, "Where is the best place to go for Spring Break?" It's a dark, surrealist comedy that should read a bit like an existentialist Russian novel--main character is deathly ill and questioning the fabric of reality, losing faith in a higher power, and generally shaking his fist in the face of the universe--but Bray's trademark blend of sincerity and sarcasm manage to ensnare young readers in a way Nikolai Gogol rarely can. Going Bovine also won the Printz Award in 2010.
bragan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Cameron Smith is an ordinary misfit teenager until he starts seeing weird, fiery visions, which he's told are symptoms of the inevitably fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob (aka mad cow) disease. He is confined the hospital as the disease progresses, but from there he finds himself embarking on a strange, hallucinatory road trip/quest featuring powerful music, quantum mechanics, bad teen television, snow globes and Disney World. He's accompanied by a hypochondriac dwarf, a lawn gnome who is also a Norse God, and, occasionally, a pink-haired angel.It's a rather strange book, but an entertaining one: breezily written, clever, and more layered than it first appears to be. While Cameron's journey may be surreal and purportedly random, it's got its own dreamlike logic that works surprisingly well, and if things sometimes get a little wacky, they never actually feel silly, if that distinction makes any sense. I'm left feeling a bit bemused by it in the end, but in a good way.