Riding Wild

Riding Wild
Publisher Name
North Star Editions
Age Range
Release Date
January 01, 2024
Twelve-year-old Victoria “Vic” Smith is not excited about summer in Willow Falls, Oklahoma. Uprooted from her friends and her home, Vic is staying at her grandpa’s cattle ranch there while her mom works and saves up money for a new house. At least the town holds rodeos where she can show off her barrel-racing skills on her trusty horse, Buddy. But otherwise, Willow Falls seems to have nothing but mean girls and mysteries about her dad’s past, a past her mom won’t say a word about. When Vic discovers that her father had been a famous bull rider, she knows she has to try the sport that he loved so much. But bull riding is dangerous, predominantly done by boys and men, and something her mom is vehemently against. Can Vic convince her mom to give her this chance to know the father she lost long ago?

Editor review

1 review
Bucking expectations
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The most unique thing about this book is how it highlights popular rodeo events like bull-riding and barrel racing. Vic is one of the top barrel-racers around and the relationship with her horse feels natural. However, she wants to learn how to ride bulls so the author includes the instruction she receives from her neighbor, Remmy. Vic’s had practice riding bucking horses but getting atop a two-thousand-pound bull is a whole new danger. She is taught how to hold the rope, wave her opposite arm, and spur the bull to jump more. Riders must stay on a bull for eight seconds to get a score but their points are also dependent on the challenge presented by the animal. Riders prod the bulls to jump, twist, and buck, making their rides more difficult.
It's clear Vic wants to feel a deeper connection to her deceased father and she’s willing to take risks to achieve it. This pursuit creates a conflict with her grandfather, Pops, and her mother. Vic’s mother doesn’t want her daughter near bulls and Pops has promised to support the mother’s wishes. Pops becomes increasingly upset when he catches Vic riding bulls on multiple occasions and it’s nice to hear him say her “word” doesn’t make her trustworthy. Vic’s recklessness and poor decisions increase the drama but it seems clear that she’ll eventually be able to compete in bull-riding, one way or another. A bull called El Loco is mentioned multiple times and appears to be the ultimate test. A couple of subplots concern gender expectations and Vic’s encounters with bullying.
What didn’t work as well:
The story lacks any in-depth description and some of it is evident. Vic’s emotions don’t always match what’s happened for example getting mad at her grandfather after she’s just put herself in danger. The attention to bull riding is interesting but readers may want to know more about the characters beyond that. The oversimplification of problems with rapid transformations will appeal to reluctant or emerging readers but more experienced readers will not be satisfied.
The final verdict:
The uncommon setting and problem may draw in young readers and Vic’s determination to prove herself and connect with the memory of her father is inspiring. Overall, this book is a quick, entertaining read and I recommend you give it a shot.
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