Title: Bull Rider
Author: Suzanne Morgan Williams
ISBN: 9781416961307
Pages: 241 pages
Publisher/Date: Margaret K. McElderry Books, c2009.

“They say it’s his skull,” Grandpa said softly. “There’s a problem with his brain. He’s in surgery.”
I couldn’t pull enough air down into my lungs. I wished time would go backwards– back before Ben went away, back before they shot him, back the way it was yesterday.
“His brain? Is he paralyzed?” Amy Jones asked.
“Don’t know yet,” Grandpa whispered.
“What’s par-a-lized?” Lali asked. “Is it a pair of limes?”
“They want to know if he can walk,” I said.
“Course Ben can walk,” Lali declared.
“He’s in a coma,” Grandpa said. “They won’t bring him out of it until his brain heals some.” (22)

Fourteen year old Cam O’Mara can’t believe that his bull rider of a brother Ben has gone and gotten himself injured in the Iraq war. His parents neglect to inform him of the extent of his injuries, causing Cam to have quite a shock when Ben finally comes home. Stress at home leads to stress at school, as Cam’s grades start slipping and his friends don’t understand what he’s going through. Instead of skateboarding, Cam finds himself suddenly drawn to bull riding as his brother struggles with accepting his injuries. With a $15,000 prize on the line for riding a monster of a bull called Ugly, will Cam be able to solve the family’s problems?

I think it’s interesting how many books are coming out recently where there is a family member who is injured or dies in the war. Operation Yes, Back Home, and now Bull Rider, just to name a few. Just like what I said about Back Home, I enjoyed the way Suzanne Morgan Williams portrayed not only Cam but also his brother and the rest of the family. Ben becomes depressed and is definitely struggling with accepting his new condition, and it’s intriguing to witness both his and Cam’s reactions. Grandma and Lali (the younger sister) are the comic relief, but it never goes overboard or strays from the core plot. The ending provides readers with the triumph of what they were routing for but the realism that it’s not going to happen the way you would like it to end. The love and thrill of the bull are evident in this piece, and Williams did an excellent job of portraying a down on their luck farming family and how they, along with the community, come together.