Monday, March 5, 2012

Review - BRUISER

Bruiser - Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA Contemporary plus Paranormal
# of pages:
Recommended for: Everyone

"There’s a reason why Brewster can’t have friends – why he can’t care about too many people. Because when he cares about you, things start to happen. Impossible things that can’t be explained. I know, because they're happening to me."

When Brontë starts dating Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins – the guy voted “Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty” her twin brother, Tennyson, isn’t surprised. But then strange things begin to occur. Tennyson and Brontë’s scrapes heal unnaturally fast, and cuts disappear before their eyes. What at first seems like their good fortune turns out to be more than they bargained for…much more.
 Bruiser is the second Neal Shusterman book I've read, and I enjoyed it just as much as when I read Unwind this past summer. I think the main thing about Neal Shusterman that I like is his writing style. He has a way of saying everything that needs to be said in a quick, simple and efficient way. I always knew just enough about the characters' thoughts and motives to get me through what was happening, but he didn't let me in on everything, if that makes sense. Just like with real people, you can't always know what they're thinking or what makes them tick. Shusterman gives just enough to help readers navigate the story, but there's always an enigmatic quality that I think is special.

And while Unwind was a solid dystopian, I don't really know that Bruiser fits into an easily-defined category. I guess magical realism wouldn't be a completely accurate label, but the whole premise revolves around something definitely supernatural and wholly thought-provoking: a boy who literally takes on the pains of people close to him. And so the story is told from the points-of-view of multiple characters, including Brewster - called "Bruiser," and the siblings Tennyson and Bronte, who literally invite themselves into Brewster's powerful but complicated world. As an aside, I'm normally very distracted by weird names, but in this book they seemed to have a real purpose. I have to say that Shusterman has a gift for creating lovable but complex characters who reveal themselves to be more than what they seem. However, I didn't always like Bronte, Brewster's girlfriend. She's the kind of character who's outwardly perfect and upright but who harbors the ability to be extremely egotistical. As the novel grew more complex, I found myself very put-off by some of her actions. I was appalled, but I also figured that Shusterman was angling for that reaction. And to be honest, I kind of liked that part of the story. I liked how easy it was to place one person's happiness above the welfare of another. I liked seeing that kind of tension and I liked seeing the characters realize the magnitude of what they'd done. Now THAT is how to create tension in a novel! My favorite character, though, would have to be Tennyson. In my opinion, he seemed to be the most misunderstood character and underwent the greatest character evolution.

I could go on an on about the brilliant qualities of this book. Not a single sentence was out of place (though I still don't like the present-tense writing style or the multiple shifts in narration) and every scene built up to an explosive finale. And the ending was satisfying but also open-ended.

I'm definitely proud of our Texas librarians who picked Bruiser to be a Lone Star book for this year. It's the perfect book I'd recommend to teen readers because it has all the elements needed in a true winner: there's action, there's suspense and sometimes even extreme tension, there's a sweet, simple romance, there's manipulation, there's heartache, and there's just a little bit of the unexplainable. Ahh, Bruiser is without a doubt one of the most memorable novels I've ever read.
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