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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And My Hands-Down Favorite Book of This Year Is ...

(Image from Indiebound)

The new year is barely a week old, so there's a good chance that, in the coming months, Bruiser by Neal Shusterman might be unseated as my favorite read of 2011. Still, there's something to be said for a novel that hooks you from its very first sentence ("If he touches her, I swear I'm going to rip out his guts with my bare hands and send them to his next of kin for lunch" [3]) and keeps you riveted for every single one of its 328 pages. And that something is, "You had me at hello." Not very original, but you get my point: I love this book.

When 15-year-old Brontë Sternberg starts seeing Brewster Rawlins, a kid once voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty," her twin brother's ready to tear the guy apart limb by limb. Tennyson knows he's being overprotective, but really, what does Brontë see in a loser like the Bruiser? Brontë herself can hardly explain the attraction, except that Brewster's different than the other boys at her school. For one thing, he's a stray, and there's nothing she likes more than a good rescue mission. Plus, Brewster seems to have some kind of knack for making her feel better, emotionally and physically. When Tennyson decides to stalk the Bruiser into leaving his sister alone, he comes to a startling realization: Not only does Brewster take Brontë's pain away, but somehow, he suffers for every person he cares about. The ugly scars criss-crossing his body are vivid proof of that.
Even though Tennyson doesn't understand Brewster's "gift," he knows it needs to be protected. But standing up for the Bruiser's not the easiest thing to do. Even for a scrappy lacrosse player like Tennyson. He'll do it, though, because as long as Brewster's around to take the hurt away, the Sternberg home is calm and peaceful. Without Bruiser, Tennyson's happy family would fall apart in an instant. It's only when Brontë and Tennyson realize how addicted they've become to Bruiser's unique kind of drug that they realize they've turned into the worst kind of abusers. Can they face their own emotions in order to spare their new friend? Or will they finish him off with the weight of their pain?
It's hard to summarize this book or to explain why it touched me so completely. Bruiser simply captivated me with its humor and heart. It made me think, it made me sniffle, it made me smile. I loved the characters, the writing, the story, just everything. What else can I say? How about two words: Read it!
(Readalikes: Reminded me of Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis and a little of Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult)
Grade: A-
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence and mild sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Bruiser from the generous folks at HarperTeen. Thank you!


  1. This one sounds intriguing.

  2. Bruiser is definitely on my list to read. With your glowing recommendation, I'll have to move it closer to the top of the pile!

  3. Great review. This sounds good - and I've enjoyed some of Shusterman's other books, so it's on the pile!

  4. I loved this one as well -- the three voices were so distinct and so real!

  5. OK, anytime you rate a book in "A" range, I sit up and take notice. You're a notoriously tough grader, Susan! LOL

    I find that my library has this book and so I'll see about checking it out. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Huh. I haven't heard much about this one, but I'm now officially intrigued. Plus, I've liked much of Neal Shusterman's work.

  7. Ooooh! If I had to guess my favorite book for 2011 already I would have no idea! There si just so much I want to read and I'm still not sure what I will think. I am looking forward to finding out though!

    AubrieAnne @

  8. I WILL be reading this one this year!

  9. Ive heard many good words about this one!!

  10. Just finished this one. Loved it!! Neil Shusterman is great. Its only January but its my favorite book. The rest I read this year have a lot to live up to.


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