I’m in the woods, in my book bubble. You know about the book bubble, right? A book sucks you in so deep that the real world is just a fuzzy hum at the edge of your awareness. The book bubble muffles sounds. Your friend may be trying to tell you about that crazy, prophetic dream she had last night, but you hardly hear her. You don’t really notice when the levitating puppy floats directly in front of your light source since the book bubble is tinted anyway. You emerge from the book bubble to realize that hours have passed in what seemed like minutes. And the book bubble is strong. It may have vibrated a little when your friend accidentally dropped his Oligochaeta detection apparatus on it, but only slightly. You know, the book bubble.
That’s where I was one day last week. In the woods, in my book bubble. The book bubble had been generated by BRUISER (HarperTeen-HarperCollins, 2010), Neal Shusterman's new young adult novel. All I had known about BRUISER was the title and that it was written by the author of one of my favorite books, THE SCHWA WAS HERE. That’s all I needed to know. I didn’t even bother to read the plot summary on the book jacket. As I read, I realized how glad I was not to have had any preconceptions at all about the book. Not suspecting where a story will lead you is a rare and surprising occurrence, like cracking open an egg with two yolks. For me, this book had the surprise factor of four yolks. Maybe five.
The plot is special, no doubt, but it was the book's characters who lured me into my book bubble. An interesting plot acted out with boring characters is like an egg with no yolk at all.
BRUISER is told from the points of view of four narrators, each with a unique voice. They are Tennyson (16-year-old overprotective brother), Brontë (Tennyson’s twin sister), Brewster (a.k.a. the Bruiser), and Cody (Brewster’s 8-year-old brother).
Tennyson’s twin sister is dating Brewster. Tennyson doesn't want Brontë involved with the Bruiser, a guy nobody knows much about but who everybody's sure is no good. When Tennyson spies on his sister's boyfriend, he discovers there’s more to Brewster than what his reputation suggests. Brewster is the center of the story. How Tennyson, Brontë, and Cody relate to him kept me turning pages when I should have been running for cover.
It’s no secret that I keep a low profile. A lot of people think I’m hiding my existence. It’s not that at all. Imagine every time you’re seen somebody shouts, “Oh, my God, it’s Sasquatch!” (FYI, Sasquatch is my Canadian cousin.) It gets old. After a few hundred times, you get good at listening for footsteps and ducking for cover until the coast is clear.
My point in telling you all that now is that last week, because I was in my BRUISER book bubble, my brain didn’t register the sounds of sticks breaking under footsteps and the murmuring of voices. I was only vaguely aware of the shout of, “Oh, my God, it’s Sasquatch!” The book bubble buffered the rest.
What seemed like ten or fifteen minutes later, I finished the book. The sun wasn't where I last saw it and there was a camera crew no more than five meters from me. As I hustled away, I heard a reporter say, “We bring you breaking news…”
Such is the power of the book bubble.
I’ll leave you with these few book bubble building tips:
Locate a good book. Might I recommend BRUISER by Neal Shusterman?
Find a safe place to build your book bubble. Some ideal locations: the donut shop, your room, a comfy couch, in the woods (as far away from hiking trails as possible). IMPORTANT: Do not read while walking. A book bubble is sturdy, but it will not cushion you if you fall off a cliff or wander into a passing stampede. If you read in the woods, note that a book bubble can’t protect you from poison sumac or busy-body news crews (just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they can’t see you).
Lastly, if you choose to build a BRUISER book bubble, do yourself a favor: Don't read the book jacket (especially the back which has an excerpt). Don't skim a random page from the middle. And for the love of omelettes, don’t talk to anybody who has read BRUISER until you have read it yourself (i.e., avoid Penny at all costs).