by Suzanne Morgan Williams
upper middle grade/ya
Drugs, sex, teenage pregnancy, you name it, children's authors write about it. Suzanne Morgan Williams is no different. She has taken on perhaps the mother of all controversial issues for this country, the war on terrorism. Bull Rider's story is current, it's controversial, but far more importantly, it's really really well-written. Any book can take on controversy, but take it on without becoming preachy, now that's good writing.
Cam O'Mara's older brother is a marine. He goes off to fight in the Middle East, is injured, and comes back home a very different person. Cam's family struggles with the effects of war on their own world, the world at large, and the way people see them. Cam, a skateboarder by passion, turns to bull-riding, a time-honored family profession, because it is the only way he can escape the discomfort and uncertainty of his life. In the end, he chooses bull-riding to help his brother realize that if Cam can face his fears and straddle a thousand pounds of bull, then his brother can face his, learning to walk again.
This isn't a light read. It isn't a comfortable one. But it is unforgettable. Williams isn't preachy. There are no easy answers to war, not for those opposing, those waging it, and especially not for those fighting it. Her characters are well-shaped, offering all sides to the debate but no judgments. Family, love, hanging in there for each other, these are the driving force of her story.
Read it. It'll make you think.
And for other great reads this crazy December month, hop over to Barrie Summy's blog.