Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review: Split by Swati Avasthi


16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father's fist), $3.84, and a secret. It is about what happens after. After you've said enough, after you've run, after you've made the split - how do you begin to live again?


Pulling readers in from the start, this is an emotional, raw, and sometimes despicable journey through the world of child abuse and escaping it. I've read plenty of child abuse case studies, read books, watched movies- but some of what the father does in this book to both his sons and his wife is gut wrenching and sickening. Several scenes will stand out as something you want to forget but can't but there are also plenty of parts that are memorable for perfect reasons. Avasthi creates a perfect balance between the two, showing brilliant insight into more characters than Jace despite his POV.

Jace shows up with basically nothing and very unexpectedly on his brother's doorstep- a brother he hasn't seen in 5 years since Christian bolted from the family, finally having a way to escape the chronic abuse of their father. Naturally, that abusive hand- and the desire to take the hits for the mom- fell on Jace until he finally fights back and is kicked out. With nowhere to go but his brother's, he drives 19 hours only to be not welcomed. He is a vivid, painful reminder of a life Christian has worked hard to forget about; an easy way for a father who is still livid his son left rather than being forced to leave to find him; a way for his new life to crash down.

The constant push and shove between these brothers was often as hard to get through as some of the abuse because Jace really had no one left. Christian would do little things to show his brother he cared but when it came to the big things, he turned his back often, leaving the reader wondering what was really going on with him, when he would stand up for his brother, and what his priorities were. By the end of the book, Avasti turns Christian- someone that is hard to feel much for because he often seems too cold towards his own brother- into a person the reader can understand, can feel for, can maybe even appreciate.

The plot of this book moves at a steady pace, revealing information about Jace's past in a way to keep some mystery there but still give the reader an overall idea of the situation. With one major thing to look forward to, his mother finally leaving the abusive father, Jace goes through the motions of avoiding his brother, trying to figure out his brother's girlfriend who lives in the next apartment- Christian's way of living together yet separately, and handling work, soccer and school. All this combines to remind the reader constantly that while Jace is a teenage boy, dealing with everything that comes with that, he's also dealing with the aftermath of an abusive homelife and the lasting effects on him.

This ending is brilliant, having a few hitches that take the reader by surprise and make them believe that's how it will end before something else is added. This book also touches on the battered wife who doesn't just leave, the family who buys into the father's words about how it has to be done and how he won't ever be punished for it, and the kid who might be just a little too much like his father. All these facets of abuse are included, each in their own unique way, and tied together seamlessly to make the overall effect stronger. The writing stays true to a teenage boy while still pulling the reader in and Avasthi has made a fantastic debut. She is certainly a writer to watch, having all the right talents to pull off a gripping, harsh story such as this one.

Source: ARC received from author for honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375863400
ISBN-13: 978-0375863400

Author's Website

Book Trailer

What Others Are Saying
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  1. Sounds interesting. Nice review :)

  2. Tremendous review Kari! This sounds like a really difficult book to read yet worth it nonetheless. It's on my list for sure. :)

  3. Definitely sounds interesting. Great review.

  4. Great review, sounds similar to my last read The Last Bridge. I will add this to my list.


  5. Excellent review. I saw this book on the IndieNext list, and while it looked powerful, I knew I couldn't read it. I am glad that it was done well. Thank you for reading and reviewing this one!

  6. Everyone needs a good emotional book once and a while and I think I might check this one out.