First Line(s): 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.
My choice to pick up Bruiser by Neal Shusterman was two-fold, first it was a Neal Shusterman book and I was curious to see what his writing style was like outside the world of Unwind. And second, the audio was narrated by Nick Pohdel, Kate Rudd and Luke Daniels - three narrators that I really enjoy. Its also narrated by Laura Hamilton but she was an unknown to me at the time and of the 4 narrators I liked her narration the least. Her part was that of Bruiser's little brother, Cody, and that was a character that annoyed the ever loving crap out of me (think Carl on The Walking Dead) and Hamilton almost sounded like a cartoon as she read his POV scenes. But Pohdel, Rudd, and Daniels shined and I fell more in love with their narration styles than I had been before.
The story of Bruiser is a bit harder to talk about because to talk about it risks giving away the very thing that makes this book special. At its heart though Brusier is a story of misunderstandings, forgiveness, and friendship. Brewster, nicknamed Bruiser, by his classmates is a loaner and is always getting into trouble. He has a reputation of being a bad boy with a bad attitude and so everyone stays away. Then one day he and Bronte strike up a conversation and they talk. This happens a few times and Bronte sees something underneath the gruff, standoffish persona of Brewster and the two start to fall in love. This is something that Bronte's twin brother, Tennyson, wants to try and stop and he does what he can to come between the two. Tennyson is a popular kid in school and everyone likes him. His reputation is to be the cool kid, the guy on top, the one that everyone wants to be friends with because he's so charismatic and nice. Only as the story progresses you learn that the ones you think are nice aren't so nice and the ones you think are bad aren't so bad.
Brusier is such a layered story and each chapter, each POV change just leads you deeper into its depths. Its a slow reveal but then also one that is not impossible to figure out. The foreshadowing parts I could have done without and then there were some things that the characters did that nearly broke my heart. But overall, this was a story that I enjoyed. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I was invested in how each of the characters storylines would play out. With the exception of Cody, because even though he was a child, I just didn't like him. Its so hard to write believable children in books sometimes and this is one case that fails. Cody is whiny, selfish and entitled and by the end I really didn't care what happened to him. I found his POV moments to be distracting and I just really wanted to return to Bronte, Tennyson or Brewster as I felt they were the only characters to go through any real growth. Who they were at the start was different than who they were at the end.
This book will tough your heart strings and tug on them and fill you up with emotion. So many emotions. Even with the foreshadowing and the impending sense of dread that unfolds as you read (or listen) to the story and yet you can't stop listening because you are filled with a burning desire to know what happens. Shusterman, as usual, has a gift with world building and storytelling that just sucks the reader in and won't let them go until the story is over. Even then you are left with residuals and wonderings of what ifs as you think about where the story might go if it went on just a little longer. Bruiser is a story built on its characters and its such a strong cast. Its a book that I knew little about before picking it up and I was glad of that as the story unfolded. This was one of my favorite audios of 2014 and its a story that I highly recommend. There is something in it for everyone.