Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and Going Bovine

This cover has enticed me for months-the colors and title are so eye-catching and memorable. I was curious about the book, then it received several awards, making me that much more curious. However, upon reading it last week, I have been disappointed.
The book is not memorable-it is the epitome of normal. A forgettable plot with predictable characters and an anti-climactic ending. Very. Disappointing.
It was written in the style of a slightly peppier Little House on the Prairie novel, but they added a hint of Darwinism and the theory of evolution. Just a hint.
A tomboy named Calpurnia Tate dreads becoming the lady she is doomed to become as she grows older, and she learns to hope for more in life after studying nature with her eccentric grandfather. She wants to be a scientist, but the book ends with her being no closer to that goal or even being able to hope for it since her parents are both wanting her to become a traditional young lady, wife, and mother.
I kept reading, just waiting for the worthiness of such high awards to become clear.....alas.
Calpurnia Tate is a tease of a cover and title. Such a shame.

On the other hand...

Going Bovine was a very intriguing novel. The main character, Cameron, discovers that he has contracted a fatal disease-essentially Mad Cow for humans. There is no cure, and he will slowly fall into a state of hallucinations, then his brain will completely shut down and he will die. No hope. He is an average loner high schooler with no friends and an inability to show concern for anything or anyone. He ends up going to the hospital, then travelling a long, crazy journey to search for a cure he hopes will work. The state of the story is always questionable, whether it is a hallucination from his rapidly decreasing mind or just an insane reality is hard to tell. But he begins to learn what it is to truly live.
The story got a little out of hand for my taste, and I got bored by the end, but the plot was not the jewel of this novel. Nor the characters.
The most impressive aspect of the novel is the way the author grasps the language, attitudes, interests, and actions of a modern teenager. She writes very believably, and I found myself completely entranced at her ability to so accurately portray a teenager, being far removed from that generation herself.
I have read many novels "about teenagers" and their "real lives", and they have all come short of striking the reality of their moods and actions. I thought she was incredibly accurate, and I intend to read some of her other novels to see if this trait carries through.