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Really Ravishing Review (Bruiser)

literati_rain66 Saturday, July 17, 2010 ,
Review of Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman.
Quickie: Thought provoking and beautiful in a totally unexpected way.

Full: Oh Bruiser. Where do I begin? I almost didn't read this one. I got the ARC, read the back and thought, "Meh, it sounds okay." But for whatever I reason I decided to give it a go, and wow. I can't believe I ever considered not reading it.

Bruiser is a story of friendship. It starts from Tennyson's point of view, in which we see his twin sister Bronte begin to date "The Bruiser". He's the big lumbering guy in baggy clothes that nobody talks to. The 'stray'. Tennyson is concerned that his sister is making a big mistake... who knows what the Bruiser could do to her! A chance meeting in the locker room and Tennyson sees what Brew is hiding under his baggy clothes - Bruises, welts, cuts, scars... all over, and all fresh.

Tennyson and Bronte go on to discover Brew's 'big secret'- he absorbs the pain of those he cares about. Every whack and scrape Tennyson receives during his lacrosse games, every paper cut and bruise Bronte collects - they all appear on Brew's body. His 'loner' status makes more sense now, but Bronte is bound and determined to socialize Brewster. She does, and he pays for it in blood- literally.

There's more to the secret though...

And Tennyson becomes addicted to having Brew around. He feels pretty much perfect when Brew's with him, no pain, just a numb happy feeling. It gets harder and harder for him to let Brewster out of his sight, because if Brew's far enough away physically, the pain goes back to the person it belongs to. (I sort of wanted to throttle Tennyson a few times.) (And Bronte, for different reasons.)

Brew is such a fantastic character, and his POV is in free verse. It was perfect. He likes poetry, and when you're reading from his point of view... it's poetic and exactly what it should be. You can't say the things he needed to say in regular speech, it was so much more powerful because of the freedom, the raw honesty that free verse allowed. Kudos, Shusterman. You took a chance and it worked.

Bruiser was an unexpected tale. It really makes you think. I nearly cried. But don't worry... it has a very satisfactory ending. It's not so much a sad book, but a touching one.

4 out of 5 stars.

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