Thursday, August 13, 2015


Shusterman, N. (2011). Bruiser. NY: Harper Teen.

Young Adult / Fiction / Supernatural / Audiobook

I gave this audiobook 5 out of 5 stars

Jacket Copy Blurb:
Don't get me started on the Bruiser. He was voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" by the entire school. He's the kid no one knows, no one talks to, and everyone hears disturbing rumors about. So why is my sister, Brontë, dating him? One of these days she's going to take in the wrong stray dog, and it's not going to end well.

My brother has no right to talk about Brewster that way—no right to threaten him. 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.

Award-winning author Neal Shusterman has crafted a chilling and unforgettable novel about the power of unconditional friendship, the complex gear workings of a family, and the sacrifices we endure for the people we love.

I am a huge fan of Neal Shusterman's Unwind series, and so when an offer popped-up to get a free download of Bruiser, I took it. As a bonus, for $1.99 I was able to add narration. The title sat in my To-Be-Read pile for four months, and then I had a road trip with my son. Unwind is one of the very few books my son has read and enjoyed, so I figured this would be a good listening choice for our trip.  My son's a teenager, and we were driving before noon, so naturally, he slept through most of the book, but for me, Bruiser made six plus hours absolutely fly by. 

The narrators do an outstanding job of voicing the four main characters, and Shusterman has each presenting from a unique point of view: Tennyson is in first person present; Brontë, is first person, past tense; Cody is stream of consciousness; and Brewster is in free verse*. I have never before read a book that did this, but it works very well, and especially with the four distinct voices narrating the audiobook, these characters really come alive. 

And the story. . . Shusterman is truly a master storyteller and as is customary in his books, Bruiser will have readers/listeners thinking deeply about life, relationships, pain (emotional and physical), and sacrifice. And what-ifs: what if you could take on someone else's pain -- would you? What if someone else could take on your pain -- would you let him? What if you could live pain free -- is that even living?

At times, the story is painful to hear/read.  Readers' hearts will ache for Brewster as the people around him are either oblivious to the damage they are doing to Brewster or worse, they know. Shusterman does an excellent job of helping readers to really feel the emotions and turmoil of the characters as the full reach of Brewster's abilities is revealed. 

I was relieved and mostly satisfied with the ending. An epilogue would have solidified things since the ending wasn't absolutely clear-cut and could be open to interpretation for those with an active imagination. The book has no sex or sexual references (a few chaste kisses only) and only a few swear words. There are adult situations with mention of parents divorcing and having affairs and adult consumption of alcohol.  There is child abuse violence, but it's not described in a graphic manner. The book is probably fine for more mature middle grade kids and older. 

About the audiobook...
This story was outstandingly narrated by a group of talented actors: Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Luke Daniels and Laura Hamilton. Their performances  really defined each character.  My only complaint is that Brewster’s dialogue was kind of hard to hear. His voice is very low and soft, which is perfect for Brewster but hard to hear with road noise.
*NOTE – I listened to the whole book, but then I looked back at the eBook to re-visit and clarify what happened with the ending. It was only at that point that I realized Brewster’s parts were written in free verse. Happily, I also discovered the first fourteen chapters of Challenger Deep, Shusterman's latest novel!  **moves higher on TBR list** And speaking of Challenger Deep and Shusterman -- here's a pic I snapped of Neal and his son, Brendan, signing copies of the book at the TLA Conference this past April. Greatness!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Bruiser, which was a Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) choice, a YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick, and on twelve state lists; The Schwa Was Here; and the Unwind dystology, among many other books. He lives in California with his four children.