Tennyson and Bronte are 16-year-old twins, and while they’re not super-close, Tennyson is annoyed that his sister has started dating the school loner Brewster, aka Bruiser, aka “the kid most likely to go to jail.” Bronte convinces her lacross-playing brother that Brewster is just misunderstood, and eventually the boys become friends, too.
Soon, the twins realize that whenever they’re around Brewster, their cuts and bruises disappear, and that he’s covered in new hurts. Somehow he takes on the physical and emotional pain of the people he cares for. Clearly, being a loner is easier for him to handle, but that’s out the window now.
The story is narrated in turn by Tennyson, Bronte, Brewster, and his little brother, Cody, and Shusterman juggles the different voices very well. Tennyson is particularly witty, and it’s a pleasure to follow his transformation from borderline bully to a more sympathetic young man. It’s difficult to describe Bruiser in a nutshell, but the story is compelling, and your heart goes out to each of the characters in the book (except, of course, for Brewster and Cody’s horrible uncle).
–Lisa, Teen Librarian