Rummanah Aasi
  I'm always surprised when I read a book by Neal Shusterman, mainly because I never know what to expect from his books. What I do know, however, is that each time I read one of his novels I always have a different, fresh reading experience that leads me to think about the book much longer after I have finished it. His latest title, Bruiser, is no exception.

Description: Tennyson is furious when he learns that his twin sister, Bronte, is dating the odd and somewhat frightening Bruiser (real name Brewster), but Bronte insists that Bruiser is just misunderstood. Tennyson, like many of his peers, think Bruiser is a psychopath in the making, but his sister insists her boyfriend is not. After observing Brewster, Tennyson eventually realizes that Brewster is a sensitive, intelligent guy. The twins can't help but notice unusual and unexplainable events happen whenever they are near Brewster. Brewster refuses to talk and keeps to himself, but how long can he hold on to his secret before being exposed by new friends? What will Tennyson and Bronte do after they find out Brewster's secret?

Review: Bruiser is one of the rare books where I didn't really like any of the characters per se, but still enjoyed the book. For me this is odd, because I have a hard time enjoying a book where I don't like or care for the characters but I think that is the very point that Shusterman is trying to make in his novel. Bruiser is a philosophical, ethical, exploration of friendship. The novel is told from 4 point of views: Tennyson, Bronte, Bruiser aka Brewster, and Brewster's little brother Cody. Although it is very easy to lump these voices together, Shusterman does a great job in making each voice unique and distinct. He also juggles with prose, tone, and Brewster's novel in verse format which is something that I haven't read before. The writing style Shusterman chose for his character is fitting to their personality and voice while not interfering with his fast pace plot.
  Tennyson and Bronte are twins and children of two English professors whose marriage seems to be falling apart. Both characters are very observant of their surroundings. I did not like Tennyson from the very start. He is arrogant, a bully, and very condescending to those around him. Unlike Tennyson, Bronte seems to be a bit more likable, however, her "let's save the strays" attitude irked me. Nonetheless, I enjoyed how these characters interacted with Brewster. Both siblings view Brewster as 'their' project with a very similar tone to My Fair Lady (a musical that has always irritated me). While we praise Tennyson and Bronte for changing their misconceptions of Brewster, we can't help but question their motives and the basis of their friendship. Are they really, truly his friends or is he a charity case for them to take on so they could feel good about themselves?
   Brewster is a very unique character that I have not read in a really long time. I felt sorry for him when I witnessed him being bullied in school and by his guardian uncle yet I was angry at him for being so passive. I didn't understand why he simply let things happen to him until his supernatural secret is discovered. The supernatural aspect of the book is suitable for Brewster's character and it actually come off as if it was plausible. I just wanted more information as to how it got started, but nonetheless it made me understand why Brewster prefers to be a outsider yet he is grateful for having 'new found' friends. Even though his friends might be using him, Brewster can't help but feel like he is using them too.
    Bruiser can be read as an homage to Ginsberg's Howl poem. Brewster's desperation, loneliness, and the yearning to be normal leaps off the page and tugs at our heart strings much like the emotions that stir us when we read Howl. I couldn't help but wonder what would I do if I were in Brewster's place.
  Shusterman poses a lot of food for thought questions for his readers: Are Brewster's abilities a gift or a curse? Should Tennyson and Bronte take advantage of Brewster's abilities once they discovered what he can do? Is there power in friendships and if so, who is abusing theirs?  Even after finishing this book over the weekend, I still don't have the answers which is why I think this book would make a great book discussion.
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and scenes of child abuse. Recommended for 8th grade and up.

If you like this book try: Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
6 Responses
  1. Nat Says:

    I love Neal Shusterman for the same reason. I loved Bruiser, thought it was so unique and well-written. His books really stay with me for a long time.

  2. Andrea Says:

    So... If I liked Bruiser A LOT. Do you think I would like Neal Shusterman's other books?

  3. Andrea: I've only read "Unwind" (which I absolutely loved) and "Everlost" from his Skinjacker trilogy which I enjoyed. Each of his book are a little different and all are enjoyable.

  4. Nicole T Says:

    when and where does Bruiser take place?

  5. Hi Nicole, I don't believe there is a specific setting for Bruiser. The time period is present. The book is fits the genre of magical realism.

  6. This book was literally amazing. I just finished it, and it's haunting in that I can't stop thinking about it. This book is a must-read for lovers of YA fiction. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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