Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Musings: Going Bovine

My first Book Musing on a book I read for class. It's cheating a little, because I wasn't reading it for craft, but I was so aware with every page, and so desperate to share my thoughts that you guys are the lucky recipients.

In the book SPOILERS teenage Cameron is dying of Mad Cow Disease. In a hospital bed, he is also on a quest to save the world. Little elements from his life pre-MCD appear in his delusions, creating a powerful story about what it means to live.

I think that at any other time in my life I would not have liked this book. There are parts where it is in INCREDIBLY cracky, and it ends as a dream-- of sorts-- both things I hate. But maybe it's my current resolve to embrace my nerdiness, dude guys she invented a version of Star Wars to allude to. The social satire is so biting and well imagined. I'm a sucker for sense in the random, and the little details connect so well in this book. Cameron's fantasy world works with what we see of his real world.

Reviews on Goodreads say Cameron is unlikeable. That this is a case of making us empathise with a difficult character. It wasn't for me. I liked Cameron. Hell, I dated a Cameron for a hot second in 2005. I get the sarcastic, overlooked kid who doesn't like Don Quixote. His opinions are presented with every thought, but you can also see his vulnerability. In the beginning, when he comes over to speak to his sister's group of popular friends, there's a tiny bit of longing in the conversation, an attempt to belong that he hides even from himself. Who hasn't been there?

The fact that his fantasy is a fantasy didn't make me hate the book, because the reader can tell. Cameron's floating in and out of his hospital bed, and while he thinks that that is the dream, the reader can know otherwise. Then they can lie to themselves, as he's doing. You root for him, even though you know mad cow is fatal. With each page turn I hoped Libba Bray had found a cure that medical science hadn't to give this smart-ass kid a chance to live outside of his own head.

There are unanswered questions. Did any of Cameron's "living" have basis in fact? Did Gonzo even exist? If he did, was he aware that in some way he was Cam's best and last friend? No knowing. That should kill me. I hate loose ends, guys. But in Going Bovine there aren't answers. There's only an incentive to live, because it could be over for you at any turn, even if you're a kid living in the shadows.


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