June 23, 2012

Book Review: Bruiser

Can we experience true happiness without pain and disappointment?

To what extent, if any, are we responsible for the pain of those we love?

Is sharing in someone's anguish a blessing or a curse?

And, perhaps most importantly:

How can we take ownership of our own happiness?

These questions, and more, are the one's that author Neal Shusterman asks us to contemplate in his book Bruiser.  In the end, Shusterman implores us to think deeply about the sacrifices that we make for the people that we love.


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, Bronte, dating him?  One of these days she is 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.  


I am not a crier when I read, but I must have teared up at least three times while reading Bruiser.  The story of Bruiser is not for the faint of heart; and as such, I would not recommend it to readers under the age of 14. Yet, even as a 28 year-old, Bruiser contains life lessons that are worthy of readers much older than its "Young Adult" genre commands.

Shusterman calls upon four voices to narrate his thought-provoking book: Bronte (his new girlfriend), Tennyson (Bronte's twin brother), Cody (Bruiser's brother), and Brewster (i.e. Bruiser himself).  Bronte, Tennyson, and Cody all speak in standard prose.  However, Brewster's voice is distinct, free verse, and somewhat reminiscent of the stream-of-conscious style of Gertrude Stein.
(Come to think of it, maybe that's why I fell in love with Brewster right away.  Stream-of-conscious is one of my favorite styles of poetry to read AND write; and of that genre, you can't beat the work of Gertrude Stein.)

According to one review:
The way [Shusterman} made the chapters switch off from all four of the main characters was genuis, and he did it SO smoothly!  Usually I don't really like when authors do that, because I usually end up dreading one of the characters chapters, and I pick favorites.  Not with [Bruiser].  I loved every single character, and I really can't choose who's my favorite. (Source)

Through the course of the novel, all of the narrators evolve; but Tennyson has an especially powerful evolution of self-understanding, and therefore an understanding of Bruiser.  Starting out as a bully and possessive brother, Tennyson matures into a compassionate young man who values and understands the importance of owning up to your own actions.  Through Tennyson, we are reminded that intention matters, in friendships, and in family.  There is sacrifice in both, but it is our intention to genuinely love, care, and accept others that really matters.


I already have a back-log of posts that I want to share with you here on the ABC blog, but unfortunately you are all going to have to "hold your horses" until the end of next week because I AM GOING ON VACATION!  Sadly, Bo can't get off of work (total bummer), but I will be spending the next four and a half days with my mom, step-dad, brother, and step-brother in Destin, FL!

I hope that you all have a wonderful week...look for a new post next Friday!

Question of the Day:

From your experience, how has loving others made you vulnerable to hurt, pain, and disappointment?

Ally and Bo

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