Is it possible to experience joy if you don't experience pain? Is absorbing someone's pain a gift or a curse? Shusterman explores these central questions in this thought-provoking new book. Sixteen-year-old Tennyson fumes when he learns his twin sister, Bronte, is dating Bruiser, the guy voted Most Likely to Go to Jail, but Bronte insists Bruiser is misunderstood. Tennyson is eventually won over and befriends Bruiser, and that's when the twins notice something odd. Their cuts and bruises disappear overnight while Bruiser is a mass of new hurts; somehow he takes on the pain, both physical and emotional, of the people he cares for. The story is narrated by Tennyson, Bronte, and Cody, Bruiser's brother, in prose and by Bruiser in free verse, and the individual voices are nicely distinct. It is Tennyson, though, who stands out as he evolves from self-centered bully to caring young man and ponders big questions about friendship and sacrifice. A culminating crisis is a bit convenient, but the compelling issues and engaging premise make this a rewarding read.--Rutan, Lynn Copyright 2010 Booklist
In this thought-provoking, low-key drama, Shusterman (Unwind) examines the bonds between family, friends, and community, and how the individual can affect the whole. Sixteen-year-old twins Tennyson and BrontI Sternberger aren't the closest of siblings, but Tennyson is concerned when his sister starts dating Brewster "Bruiser" Rawlins, an antisocial delinquent from a dubious family. But as the Sternbergers grow closer to Bruiser, they discover his secret: he takes on the pain and injuries of those he cares about, healing them at his own expense, whether he wants to or not. He can even soothe emotional wounds-his mere presence is enough to save the twins' parents' fragmenting marriage-but the cost to Bruiser may be unbearable. Tennyson and BrontI must face the unintended consequences of their actions when disaster strikes and a lifetime of healing others takes its toll on their new friend. Even as the narrative wrestles with philosophical and moral issues, it delves deep into the viewpoints of Tennyson, BrontI, Bruiser, and his younger brother, each segment told in a different, distinctive style, making for a memorable story. Ages 14-up. (July) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.