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.