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Cameron Smith, 16, is slumming through high school, overshadowed by a sister "pre-majoring in perfection," while working (ineptly) at the Buddha Burger. Then something happens to make him the focus of his family's attention: he contracts mad cow disease. What takes place after he is hospitalized is either that a gorgeous angel persuades him to search for a cure that will also save the world, or that he has a vivid hallucination brought on by the disease. Either way, what readers have is an absurdist comedy in which Cameron, Gonzo (a neurotic dwarf) and Balder (a Norse god cursed to appear as a yard gnome) go on a quixotic road trip during which they learn about string theory, wormholes and true love en route to Disney World. Bray's surreal humor may surprise fans of her historical fantasies about Gemma Doyle, as she trains her satirical eye on modern education, American materialism and religious cults (the smoothie-drinking members of the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'N' Bowl). Offer this to fans of Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy seeking more inspired lunacy. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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It sucks to be Cameron. He has no idea why he sees things that no one else sees or why, at the most inappropriate times, his hands shake uncontrollably. Then the results of his MRI come back. Cameron has a rare case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob (mad cow) disease. Sent on a quest by the angel Dulcie, he and his dwarf roommate break out of the hospital to save the world from dark energy and Dr. X. Why It Is for Us: When fate deals you a one-in-five-billion blow, do you go out living or dying? You are advised to keep a Cliff's Notes edition of Don Quixote handy as you read-though instead of windmills, Cameron tilts at Disney's Tomorrowland. Bray has not written a teen problem novel about mad cow disease. She swims in deeper water, defending the importance of friendship, family, and life purpose in the face of mediocrity.-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.