Going Bovine

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Going Bovine Book Poster Image
Edgy, quirky road trip fantasy skewers reality TV and more.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The book skewers many things, including standardized tests. The novel also makes fun of self-esteem boosters via a faux religious group called CESSNAB (Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack-n'-Bowl), which wants everyone to be noncompetitive and happy. The "church" limits reading to one book and tells teens to buy  things if they are bored or sad. Some teens rebel against it. Other targets for derision include reality TV shows and "realitymercials." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cameron is a slacker who shows up late for work, gets bad grades, doesn't keep his promises, and says his religion is "apathy." He says "f--k that" to "life-affirming" messages. He eventually learns to care about people besides himself.  Gonzo is very fearful and attached to his mother but becomes more independent and daring (he gets a tattoo). Cameron and Gonzo sneak out of the hospital without telling their parents. Cameron's sister Jenna diets and barely eats. Minor characters do bad things: A girl gives Cameron tips on shoplifting, and her boyfriend bashes mailboxes with a baseball bat. A guy steals Balder.

Violence

The fire giants burn and destroy things. Cameron and Gonzo get blamed for this and are considered terrorists. Gonzo punches Cameron. Teens rebel against a mind-control youth group. A cashier shoots at Dulcie and Cameron. Dulcie can see into the future and says one teen will get killed when he joins the army and steps on a land mine.

Sex

A football player does "the horizontal mambo with sympathetic cheerleaders." Cameron tries to embarrass his sister by asking if the birth control pills he found in the bathroom were hers. Cameron mentions masturbation, getting hard-ons, or going "a little expansive in my Fruit of the Loins" several times. He has sex without a condom with a girl (a letdown) and then again with an angel (better). Cameron believes his father is having an affair with his young assistant. Gonzo kisses his boyfriend.

Language

"S--t" and variations on "ass" ("asshole," "jackass," "kickass") are some of Cameron's favorite words, with plenty of "f--ks" and "f--k yous" thrown in as well. One of Cameron's curses is "Holy Shiite Muslim." Gonzo swears in Spanish. Characters flip each other the bird. Other language is milder, such as "pissed," "hell," "crap," "damn," and "turd."

Consumerism

There are many mentions of a fictional movie called Star Fighters, a thinly veiled reference to Star Wars. The Disney ride "It's a Small World" also plays a key role in the plot. Overall, the author mostly mocks society's over-consumption.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cameron smokes pot at home and with a group of stoners in a school bathroom; he drinks alcohol at a party. He abstains from drinking when he knows he will drive. Other teens smoke, use fake IDs to buy beer, and drink to excess at a TV-show sponsored "party house." Cameron has to see a drug counselor and psychiatrist.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know this wacky novel features a teenager's death, a punk angel, and plenty of edgy behavior by teens (condom-free sex, drinking, pot-smoking, and running away). Lots of salty language, too.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2, 5, and 13 year old Written byPoppyViolet January 27, 2011

Great book

this is a great book! It's hilarious, and very realistic. it's great for kids 12+. you aren't doing your kids any favors by sheltering them from... Continue reading
Adult Written byMissIcia November 24, 2010

A philosophical but funny and heart wrenching novel

This book is easy to read and is humorous at most times, despite the overall theme being sad. The characters are very diverse, and feature both realistic and fa... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byluke3854 May 29, 2010

Teen book

Good book problem is swearing eg a-- f--k "bone" and other profanities
Teen, 14 years old Written byBenny95346 December 1, 2010

Only Appropriate for Yound Adults

Now this is a book for the older teens or young adults. DEFINITELY a no for tweens.

What's the story?

When Cameron, a high-school slacker, finds out he has fatal mad cow disease, he sets out on an epic quest to find a cure and maybe save the world, too. Accompanied by his friends -- Gonzo, a dwarf, and Balder, a Viking god disguised as a long-suffering yard gnome (don't ask) -- Cameron faces an increasingly bizarre series of misadventures involving a punk angel, New Orleans jazz musicians, and snow globes in this very postmodern retelling of Don Quixote.

Is it any good?

Fans of Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty) will recognize the alternative-world fantasy elements in this book, but any resemblance ends there. Though the middle section stretches too long as Cameron moves from one absurd situation to the next, readers will stick with Bovine for its male bonding and humorous send-ups of fast-food restaurants, self-esteem, and reality shows. The over-the-top elements ultimately serve a quieter purpose, asking teens to ponder what it means to really live an engaged life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the CESSNAB, the cult-like youth compound with the motto, "Don't hurt your happiness." Would you want to live in a place like that? Was it a utopia or dystopia?

  • Would you want to participate in a "realitymercial" where you could order custom-made lives? What is the author trying to say about "reality" TV?

  • Why do you think the author chose to make a yard gnome a key character in the novel?

Book details

For kids who love adventure

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