One of my favorite YA novels is Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. I love how it makes everybody wrong about abortion and works backward from there. (I've been flamed for saying that--as if somehow I don't have my own opinion that's being deconstructed as well. But I think it's a good way of conceptualizing the book.) Bruiser (HarperCollins - HarperTeen) comes from a similar place, casting even the most well-meaning as antagonists.
Tennyson and Brontë are twins, but they certainly don’t have identical tastes. In fact, Tennyson hates Brontë's new boyfriend Bruiser--Brewster--and thinks that Bruiser the outcast is just another one of Brontë's projects. When Tennyson sees Brewster protect his half-brother Cody from their angry uncle and guardian, Tennyson realizes that he’s been quick to judge, and they form a truce, of a sort.
It’s not long before Tennyson’s family takes in Brewster and Cody at Brontë’s urging, but Tennyson’s motives for being Brewster’s friend aren’t entirely altruistic. Brewster has the ability to receive pain, to wipe away hurts physical and psychological. It’s bringing Tennyson’s family back together, helping him on the lacrosse field, making him happy, but how far will he let it go to feel safe and happy? Until Brewster dies? Bruiser is fascinating fiction about giving and receiving help, as well as about owning and dealing with one’s feelings.
I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.