Resources

Going Bovine Reading Guide

Pre-reading

List the ten best things and the 50 worst things about being in high school. Brainstorm (with a friend or randomly assigned partner) a list of ways to survive it. Compare with other groups.

Discuss

  1. How is Cameron introduced to the reader? What memory gives us insight into his thinking and his family life? How has he felt like he’s been “dying ever since.”
  2. “I’ve never done acid, finding it hard to go willingly to a place that could be frightening, hellish, and totally beyond my control. A place much like high school.” (p.10) How would you describe high school? Explain why Cameron feels on the outside of his. Does everyone feel this way about it on some level?
  3. Where is Cam’s sanctuary from his real life? What is yours? Why does everyone seem to need an escape from their own life?
  4. Cameron works at Buddha Burger for extra money and the epic satisfaction of public humiliation for minimum wage. What are you willing to do for spending money? What episode takes place at Buddha Burger?
  5. List ten words to describe Cameron’s family. List ten to describe your own. Compare with a trustworthy amigo. How would you describe his relationships with his mom, dad and sister? Does everyone feel “awkward, resentful, and out of touch” (p. 40) inside their family or school? Why?
  6. With what disease is Cameron finally diagnosed? How does this explain a great deal about Cameron’s life and behavior? How does his community react? What is Bray trying to say about suburban life here? What do you realize about Cameron’s parents through his illness?
  7. Who is Gonzo and what’s his story? Why do he and Cam bust out of St. Jude’s? Describe Dulcie and explain what she tells him about his quest and cure? How will he save himself and all of civilization? Would you take the challenge or not?
  8. How do they use “Signs. Coincidences. The random.” to lead them through their quest? Where does it lead them first? Would you like to see Mardi Gras before you kick it or not? Why? Create a list of the signs the boys follow and rank them on how willing you would be to follow them.
  9. How are the fire bullies and the Wizard of Reckoning the nemesis of Cameron? Who else is against him? Why? Junior Webster says he “learned how to live changed.” (p.155) Have you ever had a moment like this? What does Junior give to Cam and when is he supposed to use it?
  10. Why does Cameron keep dreaming about the hospital and home? How important do you think dreams are to your overall health? What do they tell you, if anything, about yourself?
  11. Obviously, microwave popcorn IS a miracle of human existence. What other simple pleasures do you find important to survival? Also, what questions would you ask Dulcie if given the chance? What does Cam want to know?
  12. Who is the Copenhagen Interpretation? Create a list of great band names for the ukulele or other excellent instruments. Also, decide whether you would get inside the CESSNAB van and what you would do to the compound once inside, vanilla smoothies aside. What is Bray trying to say about the world through the lens of this freaky place? Is competition good or not? What about envy, longing, and regret? Finally, make a list of things that hurt your happiness and try to avoid at least a few of them each day.
  13. Describe how Cameron adds another personality to the road trip entourage? What does Balder bring to the expedition? Why is it important that most people only see what they expect? Answer these important questions about the quest: how do they all get along and more importantly, how do they gain access to wheels?
  14. When Dulcie tries to warn Cameron that, “…Always everywhere but where you actually are. You just don’t get it”….Here. Now. This.” (p.305) What is she trying to tell him? How does Cameron feel about her advice? Do you think most people get this idea of being present or not? In this modern age, how do we ignore who we are standing beside? What wish does Cameron make? What would you?
  15. What is Putopia? What do they discover there? Would you be willing to follow Dr. X inside the machine or not? Why? Is it only because Cameron has nothing to lose? In reality, don’t we all essentially have nothing to lose?
  16. When the road trip continues what does Dulcie do that’s surprising? Who do they pick up along the way? Why? How do they double cross Cam and Gonzo? Why does learning the fate of others finally change Cameron?
  17. How does reality TV play a part in the adventure? What are people willing to do to get on television? How do Gonzo, Cam and Balder get involved in it and to what end?
  18. What happens (FINALLY!) between Staci and Cameron? How is it somewhat disappointing? Do you think most people are disappointed with their first experience? How are things different with Dulcie?
  19. What important message does the Copenhagen Interpretation bring back from other dimensions? How does the music “connect you to everybody else, make you part of the same experience at the same time.” (p. 420) Are there experiences, beyond concerts, that can make you feel this way? Do you think these feelings are important for society or not? How important is music?
  20. In the end, what happens to the universe, Gonzo, Balder, Dulcie and Cameron? What did you learn from his ultimate journey through America and himself? What was Bray trying to say about life in general and teen life in particular? What will you remember about this story in a year? In five years?

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, award-winning author and English teacher, wrote this guide and a couple of hundred others. Check them out on her website and blog.

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