Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Publication date: September 22, 2009

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Oh, man. This book is amazing. It starts off normal enough, with your typical unmotivated high school boy being lazy, smoking weed, sneaking around, etc. I almost stopped reading as I thought, "Oh great, this is going to be one of those depressing books about some unappreciative slacker kid who barely passes high school and ends up nowhere in life." But there was something about the style of writing that told me I should hang in there and it would be worth it, and it most definitely was. After a couple of bad hallucinatory experiences, Cameron discovers he has mad cow disease, and from then on the book just explodes with imagination adventure and takes you on a completely wild ride where you're unsure what's up and what's down.  
While filled with plenty of humor and adventure and a plot that will make you wonder if you might be tripping on something or going crazy as well, Going Bovine also made me take a look inside my own life, at the importance of LIVING instead of just existing, and how the relationships and experiences you encounter can make all the difference. When reading this book, you will laugh. You may cry. You will scratch your head at the absurdity of it all. Ultimately, you will likely come away from it with a new appreciation for life itself, and if like me this is your first time reading a Libba Bray book, you will have found yourself a new favorite author. 

Characters: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Writing: 10/10
Overall grade: A

Monday, July 2, 2012

Review: Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Title: Almost Perfect
Author: Brian Katcher
Publication date: October 13, 2009

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

I could relate to this book in many ways, namely growing up in a tiny town and having a best friend who was transgendered. Overall this was a great read about the kinds of things that people who fall under the LGBTQ spectrum have to put up with on a daily basis, both from parents and the community around them. 
But I think this book had the potential to be a more powerful read if it hadn't focused so much on Logan's point of view and transphobia. I do think it is very important to address the perspective of those who are homophobic or transphobic, and eventually he does come around, but for the majority of the book I found myself almost hating Logan. There is something to be said for honesty, and I admire that, but it seems like he kept flipping back and forth between being completely closed minded and then changing his mind and wanting to rescue and be with Sage. I think he provided a much needed source of support for Sage at times, but ultimately his wishy-washiness and hesitance caused her to stray away from him, and I can't blame her. 
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book for all the topics it addresses (self harm, suicidal ideations, transgender/gay issues) and for dealing with all of the feelings involved in both being transgender and how it feels to have fallen in love with someone who is undergoing a gender transition and dealing with so much pain and criticism from all directions. The emotions and pain from both Sage and Logan were so real that I found myself hurting for both of them, and while the ending wasn't completely satisfying, it made sense in a way. I would have liked to see more of the story from Sage's viewpoint because I found it completely fascinating.
Characters: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Writing: 8/10
Overall grade: B