Bruiser- Neal Shusterman

Brewster, better known as Bruiser, is a misfit outcast at his school.  Classmates vote him Most Likely to Receive The Death Penalty.  Bronte, always keen to save a stray puppy, begins dating Brewster.  Her brother, Tennyson, at first objects, but comes to befriend the Bruiser after he uncovers his unlikely secret.  Brewster is able to literally feel the pain of those he cares about.  For example, when Bronte cuts her hand, the injury quickly disappears, but Brewster ends up with a cut on his hand.  The more Bronte and Tennyson get to know Bruiser, the more the siblings learn about the nature of pain and suffering.

It’s about time for another bullet point review because my thoughts are all over the place on this one.

  • This story is told from multiple POVs– Tennyson, Bronte, Brewster (who writes in verse), and Cody (Brewster’s little brother).  I feel like this is quite the trend these days, but I didn’t really mind it here.  In some ways, it heightened the tension to be reading something happening to Cody and knowing that in the background it was affecting Brewster.
  • There are some particularly painful scenes in this book that had me slamming it shut, afraid to read on for what might happen to Brewster.  One is a horrifying instance of child abuse, so yeah, be prepared for some violence and unpleasantness.
  • The big lesson we learn here is that it is just as important to feel pain and to suffer as it is to be safe and happy.  Too much suffering will break a person (see: Brewster) and an absence of suffering turns one into a bit of a zombie (see: Tennyson).  And then there is also a lesson about how caring for people does result in pain, but maybe that pain is worth it (this is sort of left unresolved).
  • This book is very well-written, however, it wasn’t really doing it for me.  I don’t know… this felt very dark and heavy and I spent most of it feeling trapped because there seemed like no good solution for Brewster.  He either cares for no one and stays safe or he cares for people and is in pain.  The ending is a little hopeful as everyone learns their lessons, but that only comes right at the very end.  I had a hard time picking up this book after I’d put it down.  It was just so hard to see all that pain being put on the shoulders of one boy.
  • Overall, though this is a good book which addresses the issue of suffering in an original way.  Save it for a more serious moment, though, and don’t expect this to live up to Unwind.  Good, but not amazing.

Other Review:

I first found out about this book at Helen’s Book Blog and was intrigued by the premise!

2 thoughts on “Bruiser- Neal Shusterman

  1. That’s a really interesting premise. Evidently Shusterman is good at thinking outside the box. I’ll probably add it to my list, but it’ll have to wait until I get out of the light books only phase I’m in right now.

    • I really like Shusterman’s writing and he is incredibly creative. Plus he seems to be really good at making readers think about big things (like the nature of suffering). If you haven’t already read Unwind, I’d put that on your list, too. He’s definitely more on the serious side of things, though!

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