Gr 8 Up—Tennyson, 16, is a hulking loner who seems to possess the power to heal both physical and psychic hurts. When his twin sister, Brontë, befriends their shy and withdrawn classmate Brewster "Bruiser" Rawlins, he is concerned that her relationship with this boy from the wrong side of the tracks will prove somehow dangerous. After he spies Bruiser changing in the locker room and notices that his back is covered in scars and welts, he becomes even more certain that the teen and his family are bad news. In spite of her brother's warnings, Brontë continues her relationship with Bruiser, drawing him closer to her family—and Tennyson—in the process. The twins begin to notice Bruiser's unusual talent: not only can he assume the physical pain and wounds of those he cares about, but he can also absorb their anger, hurt, and grief. Told from the three characters' alternating perspectives, with Brewster's rendered in poetic form, Shusterman's novel reveals its secrets and their implications slowly, allowing readers to connect the dots before the characters do and encouraging them to weigh the price of Bruiser's "gift" against the freedom from pain that Tennyson and Brontë enjoy.—Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
When Brontë Sternberger begins dating Brewster ("Bruiser") Rawlins, her twin brother, Tennyson, quickly asserts his opinion about the relationship. But soon a unique triumvirate forms as Brontë and Tennyson learn more about Bruiser and his mystical ability to absorb others' pain. Narrative perspective alternates among the three characters (Bruiser's is in verse), and Shusterman's knack for authentic teen voices carries the novel.

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