Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review: Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams


All it takes is eight seconds . . .

Cam O'Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull-riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks—frontside flips, 360s—means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury. What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the requisite eight seconds, could the $15,000 prize bring hope and a future for his big brother?


The Short Version:
Realistic and holding strong tones of family bonds, Bull Rider easily straddles the line between younger and older YA. Centered around a fourteen year old boy, it reads in an easy way for a younger crowd while still holding all the emotions of an older one. Blending light and deep, and using bull riding and skateboarding to bring the characters to life, Bull Rider makes for a quick but memorable read.

The Extended Version:
Cam is a very easy character to like, loyal to his family but still trying to find himself in the midst of things. Having a love of skateboarding versus the family "business" of bull riding, he sets himself apart even from the start. An early look at how he looks up to his brother and how well his family gets along overall sets the stage before everything changes after Ben is shot in Iraq. The impact on Cam comes across strongly, building the sympathy aspect while also sending the character through some great strides in personal and family development. He is a very well rounded character, and holds a great voice and mindset for both his age and experiences.

Ben's character is handled very well, giving a realistic note to his injuries and lasting effects while still showing him through Cam's eyes. The difference in him from before Iraq to after is clear, holding on to certain aspects while still trying to now incorporate the changes that come with his injuries. He, too, does show some strong strides in development and the intense love between these two brothers comes through the pages so smoothly, building them both even more.

The plot has a pretty steady pace, showing the different ways Cam feels after Ben returns home, from guilty to scared to isolated. He has his moments of rebellion, but it is very in line with his age and character, and an understandable response to the situation. The bull riding aspect is really brought to life in a way that makes it easy for anyone not familiar with it to follow and understand, while not losing the pacing of the story to include it. The setting, too, is well described and easy to imagine, and blends nicely with the entire bull riding angle.

Williams' writing has a great flow, and is written in a way that is easy to read and understand while not sound elementary. Cam's voice is weaved in it easily, and there are some very defined moments of truth and emotion as well. This, coupled with the well fleshed cast of characters, the notably strong family and brotherly love, and the plot and purpose itself, make Bull Rider a must read.

Source: Received for review from author/publisher
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: McElderry; 1 Reprint edition (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442412526
ISBN-13: 978-1442412521


  1. "...Bull Rider easily straddles the line between younger and older YA." I do love that line there :)

    I agree with Alex; Bull Rider certainly sounds cool and unique! I haven't heard of any other books that mention bull riding...and I'm even more intrigued since this is YA. Thanks for the insightful review!