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Thoughts On: Moon Over Manifest and Bull Rider

It's (un)official: When I do reviews (or general thoughts) on books, I'll use the phrase "Thoughts On" in the title.

So, recently, I read two YA books for my book list: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, and Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. The former is historical, while the later is realistic fiction. Both of them have an overlying arc with slice-of-life elements, with a 1st person narrator and no central antagonist. Oh, and both are in a small town. Yet, their tone comes off as slightly different.

Moon Over Manifest:

This is an interesting book that plays a little bit with devices. It's set in The Great Depression, when the protagonist, Abilene Tucker, is send to the town of Manifest for the summer. Although it's a small town, it has many secrets. Abilene unravels these through the book through a series of incidents, along with flashbacks delivered by the local diviner, and newspaper articles.

The language in this book is good, and the past of Manifest is full of many interesting events that becomes clearer and clearer as Abilene connects the dot in the present. Also, the use of the newspaper and the diviner's stories, along with a string of letters later on, are shown in a way that comes together as a puzzle. At one point, showing what happens after a flashback through a second-hand account from the eyes of an oblivious writer comes off as amusing. Let's say the president was involved.

The characters are also quite colorful, especially in the past, and the overlying arc is clear. But once the tale comes to and end, and the truths are revealed, a certain sadness hangs over the text.

Bull Rider:

This is a slighter different book in terms of tone. Set in Nevada, it details the life of Cam O'Mara, who lives at a ranch and comes from a family of bull riders. His passion is set on skateboarding--until his brother Ben comes back from Iraq with a brain injury. The overlying arc involves Ben's journey through a slow recovery, with the effects on his family taking center stage.

The "no central antagonist" part is more prominent in this book, since there were more clear antagonists in Moon Over Manifest. First, there's Man vs. Himself. Cam feels both jealousy and guilt throughout the book. His brother Ben takes the attention of the family, and Cam struggles with helping. The other large arc involves Cam discovering his love of bull riding. When his Mom finds this out, he forbids him from doing it, because she doesn't want her other son to suffer as much as Ben.

This makes a compelling conflict : Cam's mom is not evil, nor her intentions are ill. Her motive is justified, but yet Cam's love for bull riding is too. In a way, Ben is also an antagonist, just by acting as a force that has to be fixed. As Cam juggles every aspect of his life, things get harder and harder for him. By the end of the book, Ben goes towards great lengths to give Ben the will to live again, along with bull riding.

Also, a few of the bull riding sequencing were exciting, and a lot of them shown their work. Who knows eight seconds on one could be so exhilarating?


Check out these books, even if you're above eighteen. You'll enjoy these.