Neal Shusterman


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Bruiser Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Bruiser by Neal Shusterman.

Bruiser is a young adult contemporary novel by Neal Shusterman. First published in 2010 by Harper Teen, the book tells the story of a young girl caught up in a romance with the brooding, mysterious boy at school—who happens to be an empath. The book is popular with teenage readers and was nominated for numerous awards. Shusterman is a highly successful writer with awards from organizations such as the American Library Association. Although he mainly writes novels, Shusterman is also a screenwriter.

The heroine in Bruiser is a girl called Brontë. She’s a typical teenage girl who does well in school and has plenty of friends. Her twin brother, Tennyson, is very protective of her and always looks out for her. He’s a star lacrosse player, and everyone at school respects him. When Brontë starts dating boys, it makes him nervous—especially when she picks the most dangerous boy in school.

Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins is unpopular and extremely reserved. No one knows much about him, and the students vote him “Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty.” He doesn’t go to parties, and he doesn’t watch sports games like the rest of his class. No one expects someone like Brontë to ever love Brewster, but she can’t help feeling attracted to him.

When they start dating, Tennyson is livid. He doesn’t want this creepy, strange boy hanging out with his sister—especially not alone. When he tries to talk Brontë out of going on a date with Brewster, she doesn’t listen. Tennyson has no choice but to spy on their date and crash it if he must.

Brontë and Brewster go on a date to a mini-golf park. Tennyson and his girlfriend tail them. Tennyson doesn’t like watching them together and tells Brewster to stay away from his sister. Brewster’s intimidated by him, and Brontë falls out with Tennyson for meddling. Tennyson can’t see that what he’s doing is wrong, and that Brontë is old enough to make her own choices.

A few days’ later, Tennyson sees Brewster leaving school. He looks typically sullen. Tennyson decides to follow Brewster and see what he gets up to outside of school. He expects to find Brewster running with a gang or doing something bad. Instead, he sees that Brewster lives with an aggressive uncle, and it makes him wonder if Brewster’s bad after all.

Meanwhile, Brontë insists on still dating Brewster, because it’s not Tennyson’s business. She goes on a picnic with him, but she sprains her ankle. She knows Tennyson will somehow blame Brewster, which upsets her. However, Brewster touches her ankle and the pain goes away. Instead, Brewster starts limping, which Brontë can’t understand.

Brontë starts paying closer attention to Brewster in case he has “special powers.” However, she sees he’s got lots of cuts and bruises on his body, and she confronts him about abuse. Tennyson told her where Brewster stays, and she wants to know if his uncle hits him. Brewster denies it, but she doesn’t believe him.

Brontë keeps pushing Brewster for the truth. She sees more marks on his body and threatens to call the police. However, Brewster tells her that he and his brother will be separated if anyone finds out that their uncle beats them, and he can’t do that to his baby brother. Brontë understands, but she’s not happy. Tennyson worries abut him now, too, and makes sure that no one at school bothers him.

One day, Brewster goes home to find his uncle in a temper worse than usual. Brewster’s had enough of this constant abuse, and he’s sick of feeling scared all the time. He knows he’s got friends now, and he fights back for the first time. However, his uncle has a stroke, and Brewster doesn’t know what to do.

Brewster is an empath, meaning he can absorb the pain and suffering of others, and experience whatever they’re feeling. That’s how he took Brontë’s pain away, although she doesn’t know that yet. Brewster can take his uncle’s pain into himself, or he can walk away and let him die. He leaves the house, and he doesn’t return until his uncle’s dead. Neighbors, who worried about Brewster and his brother before, take them in.

Eventually, Brontë convinces her parents to take the boys in. They start feeling fabulous all the time, and never have pain. That’s when they realize Brewster is an empath, and he’s making them feel that way. Although Brontë’s parents used to fight all the time, now they get along—but it’s hurting Brewster, because he takes on their pain.

Brontë’s upset about this and goes for a walk. She hits her head in the school swimming pool, but Brewster senses her pain and goes after her. He finds her drowning. He takes the injury upon himself so that she can survive. Tennyson works out that if they give Brewster back some of what they’ve taken, he might survive. Brewster makes a full recovery when the rest of the family start dealing with the pain they’re in—and Brontë’s parents announce a divorce.