The catchy title and the complementary chapter headings falsely set up the reader with the premise that is a novel written with an understanding of the Bible, and that scriptural wisdom and timeless virtues can apply to teens today. Instead, the title should read, The Biography of Bruce; and the scriptures would work better if removed from under the chapter headings. At least, then the author would lessen the degree of offence to Christians such as myself. This author's work is nothing short of sacrilegious. From a Christian viewpoint, my disappointment, like concrete hardening, set in about halfway through the book when I refused to be fed this non-working dichotomy. I am sure that the "saintly" Bruce Wells and his "unsaintly" peers and the story of proving out honesty will confuse even the unchurched readers. The one thing of value is the author's ability to write well. Not interestingly, but well.
- Sharon Salluzzo
Because Bruce is always doing what is right and good, his best friend Jack confers the title of saint on him. Soon everyone is calling him Saint Bruce, which makes him very uncomfortable. Bruce and his four friends convince their Latin teacher, Mrs. Atwell, that their time would be better spent studying than by attending their school's pep rallies. All goes well until the day Bruce is absent, and there is a substitute teacher for Mrs. Atwell. The four friends find themselves alone in the classroom, for even the sub has gone to the pep rally. Ellis passes around a bottle of whiskey. Although Bruce does not want to know what they did, the four insist upon telling him. When Mrs. Atwell can't get the others to admit their wrongdoing, she asks Bruce to tell her what happened. He tells her, expecting that she will keep it a secret. Instead, the other four students are suspended, and their graduation plans are adversely affected. They feel betrayed by Bruce, who in turn feels betrayed by Mrs. Atwell. Each chapter begins with a quote from the Old Testament books of Proverbs or Numbers that foreshadows the action. The characters are distinct and realistic. The themes of conformity, friendship, trust and honesty along with the ensuing moral dilemmas are thought provoking and excellent discussion starters.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Bruce Wells is a nonconformist. A high school senior whose intrinsic honesty and righteousness have earned him the nickname St. Bruce, he is determined to be a free man rather than a number. Troubled when his friends tell him that they drank liquor in school while he was absent, he is faced with a tough choice when a teacher confronts him with the incident; his honesty compels him to betray his friends. Now a pariah, Bruce examines his sense of morality and seeks absolution. As he questions the need to be accepted, readers learn that even nonconformists conform to some group norms. Using the first-person point of view, Seymour gives Bruce's character definition and integrity that otherwise might be unbelievable. Excerpts from the Book of Proverbs in Part I and from the Book of Numbers in Part II indicate developments in each chapter and lend an air of solemnity. Dynamic characters and subtle foreshadowing strengthen the plot of this unique and thought-provoking novel. References to Roman mythology and Christianity gradually reveal that Bruce's struggles are actually a hero's quest for self and salvation.-Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY
From Seymour (We Played Marbles, p. 118, etc.), a subtle, smart novel that encourages analytical thinking with its combination of an effective narrative and perceptive characterizations. Bruce, 17, earns the title "Saint Bruce" from his friends at Carthage North High because he doesn't drink, smoke, curse, or do anything wrong, but soon he's forced to reflect on his saintly behavior. When a teacher solicits Bruce to rat on his four best friends for drinking in a classroom, the consequences spiral out of control, turning this outwardly plain novel into a cleverly affecting study of morality. Bruce is shunned by his smart yet supercilious pals, and they are suspended and will not graduate with the rest of the class. The reverberations continue when one friend has to suffer his father's terrible temper and the delay of college, which his father will no longer be financing. Seymour crafts Bruce as a both alluring and repulsive figure (his frequent questioning of everything from convertibles to jukebox selections can be simultaneously trenchant and tiresome), while introducing other characters and their persuasive points of view without thrusting judgments upon readers. Bruce's dilemma, his moral choices, and his wish to be an individual are sure to spark lively debates. (Fiction. 12-14)