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Is Anything Real? (52 Weeks of Books Challenge Week Twenty-Four)

Teenagers, mad cows, angels, and crazy scientists. Welcome to another challenge week.

Going Bovine
Libba Bray, 2009, Delacorte Press

In Going Bovine, Cameron is an average sixteen-year-old boy, living in an average Texas suburb, going to an average high school where he gets average grades, and working the average fast food job. His father is a college professor having an affair with his graduate assistant, his mother is teaching at community college and paralyzed with an inability to make decisions, and his twin sister, Jenna, is the gold bar standard of teenage perfection. Cameron's average life changes when he finds out he has Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease (the form of mad cow disease that affects human beings). All seems hopeless until a punk rock angel with a sugar addiction shows up and tells him there's a cure, but he has to find it.

Why I Read It:
I was looking for recommendations in the young adult category, and my youngest sister passed it my way.

So many layers to the Bovine.

Sorry, I was rewatching episodes from the first season of Castle (for the first time since the series ended) as I wrote this, and that line was the thing stuck in my head when I started typing. My apologies.

Anyway, the in-your-face storyline deals with Cameron's delusions as the Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease progresses. As Cameron checks into and out of reality, what he's experiencing is an adventure many wish for, but never actually try to take. Hope abounds in the place he goes to where there seems to be none in the real world, whether it's hope for his relationships with his sister and his parents or hope that he can find a cure for his disease. Yeah, it's fueled by more than a few of the wilder fantasies of a teenage boy, but it's way more fun than the real world where Cameron is dying.

And that layering - that layering of Cameron's reality and the reality his family has to face… I think that's one of the most masterful things about Going Bovine. Cameron gets to skip out on it more and more as the story progresses, but his family seems to get stronger doses of the 'real world' and how harsh and unfair it can be - if the intervals where Cameron is back with them are any indication of what is going on. The strain of having a dying child brings out the affair Cameron's father is having, and Jenna's 'perfect' relationship snaps under the pressure of her brother's illness. Cameron's mother is forced to start making decisions about her marriage, and about her son's life. It would be excruciating to read if the author had chosen a different point of view, but the limited (and completely but wonderfully unreliable) view Cameron has is just enough.

I know what you're reading sounds like I have nothing but happy things to say about this book, and there is a lot to say on the positive side. On the negative, I found Cameron hard to relate to in the beginning - maybe because I wasn't the same kind of kid as Cameron when I was 16. I kept going because I figured it had to get better (which it did). Cameron became funnier and more relatable the further into the story I got.

Watch what you eat so you don't get mad cow disease. Also, be present in your relationships with people, folks. Those are way more important than being right or perfect.

52 Weeks of Books Challenge? What is that? What book is Cat reviewing next week?


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