Bruiser by Neal Shusterman brings us the story of Brewster (Brew), a fifteen-year-old enigma who is ousted by the popular cohorts of his school, kept under the umbrella of his uncle’s desperate eye, and assumes responsibility for his younger brother Cody, in more ways than one. The thing about Brew is that he cares too much; so much so that when he makes friends, when he shows love, and when he feels connected with others, he cannot help but to take away their pain.
Brew is bruised, both physically and emotionally, by the scars that should belong to other people; from his brother, Cody, who has the feelings of immortality so prevalent among the young, to his uncle who cannot help but dump his own pain onto anyone else. The need to withdraw is apparent, and it makes Brew a shadowed soul on the outer hinges of the world.
Until Brontë, a caring and kind friend turned girlfriend, who is convinced that Brew just needs at bit of TLC. Brew’s scars are dreadful evidence of obvious abuse and she wants to help. Her brother Tennyson is far more reluctant but also works his way into Brew’s life as a close friend. Brontë and Tennyson work together to bring Brew from his own shadows. But when Brew’s list of acquaintances and loved ones grow bigger and bigger, one can only raise the question of whose interests are kept at heart. Brew’s life changes dramatically, leaving us to wonder how responsible we actually are for their own actions.
This novel was published in 2010 and is one of a long list of works. Shusterman has the wonderful gift of creating a page-turner; and this is one that is a great read for it. Keep an eye open for use of fantastic vocabulary throughout the book (particularly the chapter headings), and the use of verse when Brewster’s accounts are being told. This is a complex story about issues that question who we are as people and how far we will go to seek happiness.