Terence O’Leary writes acclaimed, realistic, coming-of-age novels that focus on teenagers facing family crises. The crisis in Bringing Boomer Home (Swan Creek Press, 238 pp., $11.99, paper; $7.99, Kindle) relates to the war in Iraq and to young men who leave small-town Friday night football behind to serve in that conflict.
Cody and Boomer are brothers who were stars on their high school football team. When Boomer graduates from high school, he chooses to join the military and go to Iraq to become a warrior. He saves the lives of three buddies who were being burned alive. In the process of trying to save them, Boomer is horribly burned. His face and his hands need months of reconstructive surgery.
The Vietnam War is often referred to in this book, as Cody’s girlfriend is part Vietnamese and lives with her grandmother who is 100 percent Vietnamese and who lost part of an arm in the war in Vietnam. Boomer’s father encouraged him to join up, but his mother was against the idea. This was a source of family conflict, especially after Boomer comes back to the United States hideously scarred.
Boomer spends many months in rehab and eventually returns to his community. Cody’s girlfriend Kim, a photographer, prepares the community for Boomer’s return by creating a photo essay. Kim’s grandfather was a Vietnam War photographer and there is much discussion of other Vietnam War photojournalists, including Larry Burrrows, Catherine Leroy, Eddie Adams, and Nick Ut.
The title gives a lot away. The final third of the book is devoted to what steps are taken to bring Boomer home to his community. These steps are risky and complicated, but they work out—after a fashion.
This is a Young Adult novel, and one expects that since it is aimed at young people, it will have a hopeful conclusion. Those are the kind of books that Terence O’Leary writes and this one is no exception. There is no real villain, except for perhaps the war.
The book ends with yet another football game. I’ll let you guess who wins: Cody’s team or the Panthers.
This is an excellent YA novel, and one that this not-young adult enjoyed reading.
The author’s website is www.terenceoleary.com