Going Bovine by Libba Bray
I sort of think I am not literate enough to review this book. It's a picaresque! There's an unreliable narrator! A running reference to Don Quixote! The entire thing may well be an hallucination... dun dun DUNN! Maybe it says something about me - but also I think it says something about Libba Bray - that after I finished it, the best parallel I could think of was that episode of Buffy when she's really in a mental hospital in LA, and all that Sunnydale vampire stuff, and her friends, and the personal growth, and the vampire sex - was all a pathetic delusion.
Our hero is a slacker stoner boy in a Texas burb, alienated from his family, alienated from his peers, oh hell just alienated in general. And in the typical arc, things get worse and worse until... something weird happens. He is diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
I'd like to take a moment here to review some of the weird things that have happened to underachievers in books I've read recently.
- The kid in Unwind - parents schedule him for medical dismemberment
- Nathan Abercrombie - becomes undead after having been doused with Mad Scientist Juice
- Emerson Watts (Airhead) - her brain is transplanted into a supermodel's body
- Cameron Smith (this kid) - mad cow disease
Is it me? or are the stakes rising? and getting more... medical? Just an observation. Back to Cameron.
Don't think that just because Cameron's stuck in the hospital, this is a sad, heavy, disease-y book. It's pretty damn funny, in fact. Cam gets out of the hospital and hits the road, accompanied by his pal, Gonzo, a dwarf. They go to Mardi Gras, shit gets blowed up, sandwiches are consumed, they pick up a yard gnome whose first helpful act is to rob a drug dealer. Like that.
Time and space warp - at one point, Louisiana is "a thousand miles" away from Texas. Cameron's guide, a punk-rock angel named Dulcie (Hola, Miguel!), provides insight and teaches Cameron to live in the moment.
There is sex. There certainly are erections. I am a bit tired of reading about erections, personally. They're not as funny as some writers seem to think they are, although I do concede that they're a little funny. There's dope-smoking, although after Cameron gets his diagnosis, he does stop self-medicating.
It's the kind of book that you could read over and over and still be getting stuff out of. That's bad grammar. I trust you to get past it, just as Libba Bray trusts her teenage readers to handle the entirely grown-up themes she's laying down for them. I do love a book that respects the child.