Reading level: YA
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (June 29, 2010)
Book Summary: Is it possible to experience joy if you don’t experience pain? Is absorbing someone’s pain a gift or a curse? Shusterman explores these central questions in this thought-provoking new book. Sixteen-year-old Tennyson fumes when he learns his twin sister, Bronte, is dating Bruiser, the guy voted Most Likely to Go to Jail, but Bronte insists Bruiser is misunderstood. Tennyson is eventually won over and befriends Bruiser, and that’s when the twins notice something odd. Their cuts and bruises disappear overnight while Bruiser is a mass of new hurts; somehow he takes on the pain, both physical and emotional, of the people he cares for. The story is narrated by Tennyson, Bronte, and Cody, Bruiser’s brother, in prose and by Bruiser in free verse, and the individual voices are nicely distinct. It is Tennyson, though, who stands out as he evolves from self-centered bully to caring young man and ponders big questions about friendship and sacrifice. A culminating crisis is a bit convenient, but the compelling issues and engaging premise make this a rewarding read.
My Review: BRUISER is an exceptionally unique story, with an even more unique main character. Brewster has the ability to take the pain away from those he cares about by suffering from both their physical and mental ailments. His love for the people in his life causes him much pain, but yet, he endures without a single complaint. Shusterman creates a completely loveable character in this novel, and Brewster had my sympathy from beginning to end. However, much was left out as to the explanation for why Brewster has the ability to steal others’ wounds or as to how he got it. The storyline introduced many questions, the majority of them answered, but there were still a few major ones leftover.
I also found myself somewhat sympathetic of Brewster’s foster siblings, twins Bronte and Tennyson. Their dealing with a crumbling family structure along with school and social drama made me want the best for them, and that is what happened when they provided a foster home for Brewster and his younger brother, Cody. Brew freed the family of any troubles while present, and the everyone was actually happy and content for once. But of course, the constant feeling of a fake content gets to Bronte and things begin to blow over again. However, the one thing I did not like about the novel was how much of it focused on Bronte and Tennyson’s family troubles while there was a troubled miracle of life living amongst them! The story should have focused more on Brewster and all that he has to go through just to live a normal life.
Overall, I thought that Shusterman handled the alternating perspectives very well, with all of the characters having distinct personalities. BRUISER is a very touching read, with a miraculous ending. Bring out the heart paddles (as Bronte would say)!
“I’ll never understand how a man can live his life
With his finger on the self-destruct button,
Holding it there day after day,
Blinded by an obsession to press it
But lacking the conviction to do even that.
This was my Uncle Hoyt before today,
But today, the auto-destruct sequence is engaged,
And counting down.” (Page 199, ARC Edition)
“I’ve always been a rational guy. I believe what I can see, but now I also believe there is room in the world for miracles. Maybe not the ones we expect, but they’re miracles all the same. They happen every day if only we pay attention.” (Page 328, ARC Edition.)
Cover Comment: At first I thought the face on the cover belonged to Tennyson, but as I delved deeper into the storyline, I assumed it was the face of Brewster. It’s a suitable cover, but I thought it could be more personalized for the character. Perhaps some sort of bruise or injury visible on his face would show more of Brewster’s character.
Book Source: Around The World Tours