Friday, June 1, 2012

Going Bovine - by Libba Bray

One can only guess how much the author must love libraries, in order to have changed her name to something that looked, and sounded like the word. Born with Bray as her last name, she changed her first name from Martha, to Libba.

This book answers that age old question "What happens when a teenager afflicted with mad-cow disease, a hypochondriac dwarf, an enchanted garden gnome, and a Goth angel take a road trip in a quest to save the world?"

In his brain-sponge-ified delirium, 16-year old Cameron begins to lose some of his youthful cynicism, and starts to remember some better times, back when he didn't think his parents were useless, and when his twin sister, Jenna, was still his friend.

Recollections of libraries, of course, are good ones. As Cameron's mother reads Don Quixote to him in the hospital she recalls taking him to the library when he was little, when she'd let him pick out five books, and he could never wait to get home to read them. At first Cameron doesn't share this memory, but later it comes back to him.
Crystal clear I could see myself sitting in my mom's lap over near the water fountain, and she was reading some rhyming book about monsters to me. She had on sandals and she smelled good, like shampoo. And I was happy. How did I manage to forget that?
In what one might analogize as his "siren's song" Cameron and his friends get waylaid at CESSNAB (the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'N' Bowl) where everyone is happy. Well, everyone except Library Girl. Library Girl is fed up with stocking thousands of copies of Don't Hurt Your Happiness, and nothing else. As she explains to Cameron, Don Quixote is "complicated" and some readers "felt inadequate about not understanding it right away" which introduced "nonpositive feelings". Furthermore Catcher in the Rye  was "very angry, very negative" and included prostitutes and "bad words"; Lord of the Flies was "too violent"; and comic books were "scary," "dark" and the superheroes' "unattainable powers...might make kids feel bad about themselves". Even Winnie-the-Pooh was verboten. Library Girl does what any librarian worth her salt would do when faced with censorship: she starts a revolution - giving away forbidden reading materials, and taking over the CESSNAB airwaves. She is perhaps my favorite "library book" character so far.

This book is written for teenagers, and I wonder how many of them will understand the description of the "card-catalog-sized drawers" from whence Cameron's "magic screw" is delivered. For those who don't get it, see my Library Book post for a description and picture. Also see Dance of the Card Catalog.

An irreverent romp - I read this book at the suggestion of my sister, who knows that I like quirky things (and that I hate censorship).

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