Dear Mr. Shusterman,
Fantasy is my favorite genre. I love fantasy of all kinds, from high fantasy (your Lord of the Rings, your Wheel of Times) to fantasy light (your Harry Potters), to books with fantastical elements (all those books with a kid just like you EXCEPT...). I think fantasy must be fun to write, because it allows you to create your own world and rules. As with many things, with the great power comes great responsibility. Probably the most important thing when creating a fantasy book or a book with fantasy elements, is adhering to the laws of the universe you've created. As soon as you start breaking your own universe's laws, you lose your reader. Why should I suspend my disbelief when your world doesn't make sense? Just because it's a world that doesn't actually exist doesn't mean it does not have to make sense. It does. It so, so does.
So with that being said, you can probably guess what my main issue with this book was. But first! Brewster has a bad reputation. Tennyson (yes, his name is Tennyson) is not pleased when his sister, Bronte (yes, her name is Bronte) starts dating Brewster "Bruiser" Rawlins. It's a bit confusing as to how Brewster got this violent reputation, since he's never been in a fight, or physically hurt anyone. Not even bugs. When he begins to care about people, Brewster takes on their pain. Both their physical pain, and their emotional pain. Because of this, Brewster is a loner. The more people he cares about, the more pain he'll be in.
To get right to it, the major issue I had was that it's quite clear the Brewster takes the pain of the people he cares about. Brewster's little brother is devastated that their pet bull died. He cries for a couple seconds, then is totally fine while Brewster is having a break down because he has taken his brother's sadness. Bronte twists her ankle. It hurts for a couple seconds and then Brewster is the one with the limp. It's also made clear that Brewster has to be close to the people who he cares about in order to take their pain. When Bronte figures out what's going on, she storms off and walks about a block before she can feel her anger. OK. Clear rules. Brewster takes physical and emotional pain of those he cares about. He needs to be close them to do it. The more he cares, the faster he can take their pain. Got it.
But it doesn't hold. Brewster's uncle beats his little brother, which doesn't hurt the little brother of course, but Brewster. Their uncle is angry through most of the book. But he shouldn't be, should he? Because Brewster should take his anger, just like after the scene where the uncle beats the little brother and then is all remorseful and apologetic about it and Brewster can feel himself start to take his sadness, so he leaves, because he wants his uncle to feel the sadness himself. That confused me the entire book until the very end where it was thrown in that if they really, really tried, they could keep their feelings around Brewster. But they had to really, really want to. Oh really? There was nothing to suggest that. It felt like it was thrown in.
Brewster shows Bronte his black and blue chest and torn up back from all the new friends she's introduced him to that he now cares about. But he shouldn't be all black and blue, should he? His range seems to be about a block. If Bronte could feel her anger after walking a block, and Brewster supposedly loves Bronte, and the more he cares the quicker he takes stuff, then once he gets away from those people, shouldn't they take their pain back? Unless all their friends are living in the neighborhood. Which I doubt. Or when it talked about his little brother breaking his arm and Brewster taking it, wouldn't when he went to school his little brother should get the broken arm back? This just doesn't make any sense! I could go on with the examples, but this is getting long
Besides that I had other issues with the book. Tennyson and Bronte are both self-centered snobby pains and I just didn't care what happened to them. The scene where their parents decided that the first time their daughter has her boyfriend over for dinner is the time to start yelling about how they both had affairs was ridiculous. And Brewster's sections (the book was told in the alternating points of view of Tennyson, Bronte and Brewster) were written in blank verse. Well, it was suppose to be blank verse. But just because you put odd breaks in your lines and use slightly more descriptive language then with your other characters (who sounded the same) does not a poem make. I think it was suppose to make Brewster seem deep and mysterious. It just annoyed me.
But then why should I buy in when the world that was created made no sense at all?