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Bull Rider

July 6, 2011

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams

Margaret K. McElderry; 1 Reprint edition (May 4, 2010)

Summary: Cam O’Mara comes from a bull riding family but he does not plan to continue the tradition started by his grandfather and brother. He prefers the thrill of skateboarding to the danger of trying to stay on 1,500 pounds of bucking bull (and those are the small ones). Cam never thought he would get on a bull until his brother Ben comes home from Iraq with a Traumatic Brain Injury and a myriad of other injuries. Cam always looked up to his big brother and respected him even if they did not share the same hobby. When Ben comes home he is not the brother Cam remembered.

After taking a dare and getting on the back of a bucking beast, Cam realizes that the thrill of bull riding helps him forget his worries about Ben…for at least eight seconds. Unfortunately, Cam’s problems don’t  end with his new-found sport. First, his mother, worried about her youngest son’s safety (and what mother would not be), puts the kibosh on Cam’s riding. Also, Cam’s best friend and skateboarding buddy Mike is furious that his friend is more interested in bulls than boarding. Finally, instead of getting better, Ben seems to be getting worse- he has given up on ever recovering his memory or the use of his legs. Will a bet with his brother be enough to convince Cam to take on one big bull, fittingly named “Ugly?”

The Good: I think this book is a good depiction of what so many families deal with when injured soldiers return home. Cam has always looked up to Ben even with their differences and Ben has always been there to push Cam. When Ben comes home he is struggling with his injuries and the realization that his life will never be the same as he expected it to be. Cam’s family is preoccupied with taking care of Ben and in some ways Cam falls through the cracks. The family comes  together, each in their own way, to support Ben and help him heal. Through the process, they also learn how much they all need each other’s support.

The Bad: The description of this book is basically that a skateboarder becomes a bull rider. To be honest, I was not terribly intrigued, but as I started reading, I was quickly drawn into Cam’s story. Even if this book sounds like something you would not be interested in, give it a chance! (see my “The Awesome” section)

The Ugly: Okay, here’s the part of the review where I write like the adult that I am. Cam does some lying to his parents and he gets himself into some pretty dangerous situations (ahem…in my book, bulls are dangerous by definition). As with so many other great books, enjoy the book- don’t do stupid things because the characters in the book do! “Kids- listen to your parents! When mom tells you not to get on the back of a 1,500 pound, angry animal- Don’t Do It!” Okay…disclaimer over.

The Awesome: As I said before, I was not initially interested in this book but as I was reading it really got me thinking about rodeos in my life. I grew up in a beach town (more fishing than rodeo), but my family comes from a farming community. I remember going to small community rodeos as a kid and how close you are to the action. It is so different from big rodeos (like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo…which I also love) because there is dirt and dust everywhere and there is something so awe-inspiring about seeing the big animals up close . Also, long before I was born, my grandpa rode bulls…that is until grandma made him stop (seriously…I probably would make any husband of mine stop too). I always thought the drive to do something so dangerous was just stupid bravado, but the way bull riding is described in this book shows the thrill of it. I loved the imagery in “Bull Rider” but what I think I loved the most was the connections I felt to it. When I visited family in my mom’s and dad’s hometown, I always kind of felt like a skater in a rodeo town (figuratively speaking- I have ever been on a skateboard for more than five minutes at a stretch) so I was able to relate to how Cam felt. Even though I do not have any close family members who have sustained a major injury like Ben I could understand what he and his family were going through and through Cam’s description of bull riding, I was able draw connections to my family and my childhood.

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