Going Bovine, By Libba Bray

going-bovine

I  really really wanted to like this one. I had never read any Libba Bray, but I’ve heard that this is quite a departure from her Gemma Doyle series. And I really really want to read the Gemma Boyle books. But this book. This strange book. It just didn’t do it for me. But I REALLY wanted it to. It’s like a relationship that looks good on paper, but in reality there are no sparks, and all you can blame is a lack of chemistry. I wanted sparks.

Going Bovine is about Cameron Smith, a 16-year-old boy who somehow ends up with the unlucky fate of contracting mad cow disease. Cameron finds out that the disease is fatal, and that his body will slowly stop working for him. So he does what any fatally ill teenager would do. He goes on a road trip with his friend Gonzo. But it’s not just any road trip. He learns, from a hot punk-rock angel named Dulcie, that he has to find Dr. X who can cure him of the disease. Along the way Cameron and Dulcie run into a very odd cast of characters–my favorite was Balder, the viking garden gnome.

As I said, I really really wanted to like this book. It has a unique premise and amazing characters, but the plot is so wishy-washy. I felt like I was constantly waiting for the “a-ha!” moment, and never got there. My favorite part was the beginning, before the road trip.  And when my favorite part is the beginning, that means the rest of the book was “meh”. There are some tear-jerker moments in the book and Libba speaks so honestly about the state of the world today, and about the fragility of life. I didn’t dislike it, and I didn’t “not get it”, it is a deep and moving book that was well crafted and beautifully written, and very original and witty and hilarious. Which all sounds great, but there were no sparks.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never read Don Quixote, which this is loosely based on. Or maybe it’s because I’ve read a few too many truly BAD Don Quixote knock-offs. But this just wasn’t for me. It’s not Libba, it’s me. Going Bovine has gotten good press, and in case my review just doesn’t do it for you, here are a few fans of the book: KidsLit, Reading Rants, Tea Cozy, Em’s Bookshelf and a review I agree with: Abby (the) Librarian.

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Incarceron, By Catherine Fisher

IncarceronI was going to hold off on reviewing this one until closer to the pub date, but I just can’t wait. I received an ARC of Incarceron at PNBA from my lovely Penguin sales rep, and had heard FABULOUS things about it during my “Children’s Pick of the List” panel at the tradeshow. Booksellers were throwing around words like “steampunk” and phrases like “well, I can’t tell you much about it….” so of course it sounded like my kind of book. I just love books I can’t talk about. Right. So let’s talk about the book, shall we?

Incarceron is set in a postapocalyptic-ish future. Kind of. You see, the powers that be decided that it would be safer if they just stopped time, so they all live in a sort-of Victorian era, but most people cheat and use technology to fake their authentic Victorian lifestyles. Claudia lives in this fake-Victorian-era, and her father is the Warden of Incarceron–a prison that was created decades ago where ALL the bad people of the world were sent to create a new utopia-type-land. Finn lives in this utopian prison. Except it’s more like hell. The chapters alternate between Claudia and Finn, (seamlessly, I might add) and as they learn more about eachother’s worlds many mysteries surface.

Sounds pretty awesome and sort of complicated, right? Well it is. Pretty awesome. It’s really not complicated once you’re entrenched in the book. And I was hooked from the first page. Catherine Fisher does an amazing job of keeping things suspenseful, and she weaves together the different story lines beautifully. Her worlds are so completely original and well shaped. I can’t wait until this one comes out so that I can start selling it. It’s already been out in the UK for awhile, so if you really want it, I’m sure you could find it. Or just wait and buy it at your local indie bookstore. (shameless plug).

EDIT: I just found out that Bookshelves of Doom has a great review of Incarceron too! I think her summary is a bit less convoluted than mine, check it out.