Book Review: Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

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“Bruiser” by Neal Shusterman. First published 2010 by HarperTeen

A gripping read for teens of both genders, “Bruiser” by Neal Shusterman is about secrets, family and friendship.


Brother and sister duo Tennyson and Bronte are among some of the more popular kids at school. Told mostly through their eyes, this teen novel centers around an unpopular, tough-looking guy at school, Brewster (also known as Bruiser), who has a reputation for being weird and keeping to himself. Tennyson is upset when Brewster starts dating Bronte. Protective of his sister, Tennyson makes it his mission to uncover Brewster’s secrets. What Tennyson and Bronte find out about Brewster is shocking… but not in the way anyone expects.

It is tribute to Neal Shusterman’s unsurpassed plot handling that the eye-opening twist in the story is delivered about halfway through the book instead of at the end. Events continue to build at a gripping pace as more about Brewster’s situation is revealed… and his impact on Bronte and Tennyson. The plot continues to move through fast-paced action and very challenging emotional situations to a captivating finale which leaves the reader still thinking about these characters. Some readers may gripe that the plot is not 100% realistic, yet this is necessary not only for the page-turning read but also in order to examine the questions of ethics posed in this novel.

Appeals to both genders

This fascinating teen book is of equal interest to both genders of young adult through Neal Shusterman’s superb handling of the perspectives of Tennyson and Bronte. Perspectives of some other characters, including Brewster, are also employed.

The one criticism here is that Brewster’s point of view is delivered in a form of stark poetry. On one hand, this maintains the notion of Brewster’s uniqueness and keeps his point of view more indirect, both of which are central to the plot. On the other hand, this doesn’t come across as a realistic way someone would think. However, this is more than overcome by Neal Shusterman’s ability to write convincingly in the opposite gender (something in which comparatively few teen authors succeed). Tennyson and Bronte are very engaging main characters and it is refreshing to read from the perspectives of a brother and sister.

The bottom line

“Bruiser” by Neal Shusterman is a page-turner which challenges the reader to think about questions such as: How far would you go for a family member? For a friend? And what happens when you truly care about someone?

Available in Kindle and paperback.