Book Review: Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman is a young adult novel appropriate for grades eight and up. The story follows Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins and his interactions with twins Tennyson and Brontë. Bringing Brewster out of his shell might night really be the best thing for him, or their family. Brewster is a large sixteen-year-old loner, who can heal both physical and psychic hurts. Brontë, befriends the shy Brewster, her twin Tennyson is worried about her spending time with the boy once voted ""Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" at school. After spending some time spying on Bruiser he is more worried, but now for Brewster as well as his sister. As the story progresses Brewster becomes closer to the family, and some classmates. The twins notice Brewsters's gift, which they learn is much more than just removing physical hurts and bruises from the people he cares about. The story is told from the three teen's alternating points of view, with Brewster's chapters in verse. I greatly enjoyed Bruiser; it was a nice change of pace for me. The characters were well written and as usual, Shusterman delivers a well-told story that engages readers. The characters are very real, with reactions that readers might not always like or agree with, but ring very true. Shusterman takes his time in unfolding just how Brewster's gift works, why his uncle and brother treat him the way they do, and the greater implications of his abilities. The way readers can connect the dots before the characters do does not ruin the story, it compliments the struggles that they are going through, since they do see aware that there is more going on than they can admit at any given moment. The understanding that pain and conflict is not always a negative thing, that sometimes they are necessary, is a hard won lesson that we all need to remember on occasion. Sometimes a book that shares various perspectives becomes confusing or does not flow well, but it does the job of explaining feelings and reactions in Bruiser that I do not think would be possible to this level of effectiveness with a single voice. In addition, while I am not normally a fan of novels in verse, the chapters from Brewster's point of view in free verse really emphasized that he is not at all what he appears to be from the out side. His sensitivity and necessary gentleness is perfectly blended with his frustration and anger at his gift and resulting situation. It worked perfectly, and made everything that much more powerful. I think that Bruiser is a great book choice for tweens and teens that might be considered reluctant readers. I also suggest the book for those with family issues, such as impending divorce or separation. I think that the book can speak to a wide variety of individuals, since the three points of view are as well cemented as real people, not just characters on a page.
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