Monday, August 1, 2011

YA Book Club: Going Bovine

Welcome to the inaugural Consider the Daffodil YA Book Club, featuring the funny and thought-provoking Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I know that some of the people who are reading this are a bit behind, but I wanted to post this anyway for those of you I don't know in real life who may have already finished the book.


Going Bovine is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. It's a weird fantasy adventure, a mash-up of Percy Jackson and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, that talks about physics, obscure diseases, Don Quixote, drag queens, jazz music, religious cults, reality TV, and Norse mythology. It's got a male protagonist who is such an apathetic loser, he can be hard to relate to. And most importantly, it looks death right in the face. This book shouldn't work.

And yet it does (at least for some people, and I count myself among them). Going Bovine allows teens (and everyone else, of course) to get right up into the heart of impending doom (be it our main character Cameron's life or the End of the Universe as we know it) from the safety of a bunch of words on pages.

To be frank, while I was reading the book, I loved little bits but felt overall that it dragged. There were just a few too many set pieces (CESSNAB, PUTOpia, the YA beach house among them). They all felt a little bit like the Las Vegas hotel of the Lotus Eaters in the first Percy Jackson book - yes, I see what you're doing there, but let's move things alone now, please, there's story I want to get to. That having been said, the key elements of the story - much of the discussion below - has really stuck with me, and I think Bray does a good job at confronting mortality within the context of humor and adventure. (She also manages to give an interview in a cow suit quite well.)

I'm not going to summarize the book, although you should feel free to summarize any bits you see fit. I'll post the questions first, then chime in later with my own comments. I really want to hear what you have to say! Feel free to add any of your own questions as well. Spoilers from here on out.

1)For such a funny book, Going Bovine hits on some really big questions (Questions, even). Do you think this balance worked?

2) Why is Cameron's childhood trip to Disney World and his subsequent near-drowning the happiest day of his life?

3)What's up with the snow globes and the United Snow Globe Wholesalers?

4)Did Cameron actually go on this wild adventure? Or was he in his hospital bed the whole time?

5)The "one true thing" Cam learned on his travels, as he tells Dr. X, is that "to live is to love, to love is to live." What do you make of that? How did he come to realize the truth in this Great Tremelo song that he had previously listened to only ironically?

6)The obligatory casting question: Who would you cast in Going Bovine: The Movie? (Cameron and Dulcie probably being the easiest to cast).

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