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Tennyson tells his twin sister, Bronte, to stay away from “the Bruiser.” She has a knack for bad boys, and Bruiser is the ultimate outcast. In fact, Tennyson has such a problem with Bronte befriending Bruiser that he decides to follow him home one day to learn more about this mysterious character. That one act changes everything. Instead of finding a hothead who lives in a shack, Tennyson sees some of the truth behind Bruiser’s reclusiveness. With an ill-tempered uncle and a younger brother, Cody, to take care of, Bruiser has a lot to deal with. Tennyson is beginning to realize that there is more to him than meets the eye.

Cody is doing his best just to escape childhood unscathed. That is a difficult task considering his mother left him when he was young, and all he has is his uncle and his older brother, Brewster. Most of the time Uncle Hoyt can be nice, but when he hits the bottle, Cody knows it’s time to get out of his way. There have been a few instances where he wasn’t fortunate enough to escape Uncle Hoyt’s wrath, but that’s why Brewster is there. Brewster always takes the pain away, in more ways than one. 

Bronte always has had a soft spot for the rebel. Perhaps it comes from her upbringing with her twin brother, Tennyson, and his capacity to pick on others. Or maybe it comes from the fact that their parents have hit some troubled times lately, and she wants somebody she can help fix. Either way, Bronte is determined to get close to Brewster. At first she finds someone who has a rough home life, a love of poetry, and a hard time getting close to others. As she spends more time with Brewster, though, she begins to learn exactly why he is referred to as “the Bruiser,” and the truth starts to haunt her.

Upon his mother’s death, Brewster is told to close himself off from others. Family, Uncle Hoyt reminds him, is the most important thing. Brewster doesn’t need anyone else. Family, though, can be dangerous, and he starts to bear battle scars. Maybe it is finally too overwhelming, or perhaps it is meant to be, but he finally lets Bronte into his life and tells her his deepest and darkest secret. There is a reason for all the bumps, scrapes, bruises and scars that cover his body. He can’t help it, and he needs her to understand. With understanding comes pain, however, and Brewster may not be ready to take it all this time around. 

Neal Shusterman has always provided a provocative and compelling story that hooks readers from the first page. BRUISER is no exception. With a trademark fantastical element that makes so many of Shusterman’s novels successful, his latest takes the impossible and brings it to life. As much as this is a fantasy story, it’s also an interesting look into some of the problems that many teenagers experience daily. Divorce, popularity, bullying and friendship are the core ideas that are explored throughout. Fans of Shusterman will want to pick this one up, along with anyone else looking for a good, supernatural author.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on June 29, 2010

by Neal Shusterman

  • Publication Date: October 4, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0061134104
  • ISBN-13: 9780061134104