I love Neal Schusterman’s creepy and creative novels (especially Unwind and the Everlost trilogy), so as soon as I saw Bruiser, a Schusterman audio on the library’s Teen New Releases shelf, I scooped it up. It was different from the others I’ve read but still very compelling.
Bruiser is the nickname of a teen loner named Brewster who was named “Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty” by his fellow classmates. Rumors abound about Brewster’s background and life because no one really knows him. That changes when a girl named Brontë talks to him in the library and begins dating him. Brontë’s twin brother, Tennyson (their parents are English teachers!), is not too happy to find out his sister is dating “the Bruiser.” But as both Brontë and Tennyson get to know Brewster better, they discover there is far more to him than their classmates know, and they even begin to learn some of the secrets that he has worked so hard to keep from the outside world.
Different chapters are told from the perspective of different characters, providing multiple points of view throughout the story. The audio production is excellent, read by multiple narrators in a very effective way. But it’s more than just different voices. Schusterman has written the different character’s perspectives in totally different styles. Brewster’s chapters, for instance, have a darker, intense quality, with short, alliterative sentences and an almost poetic tone (Brewster enjoys poetry).
There are some disturbing scenes in the novel, including violence and abuse; it is definitely darker than his other novels and more appropriate for older teens. And, of course, there is Schusterman’s typical supernatural twist to the story, though the rest of the elements of the story are firmly based in reality. This is a darker and more thoughtful novel than his others, with a focus on the intricacies of family and love. I found it completely engrossing.