Received from The Book Scout (thank you!)
Sixteen-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.
He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.
At least so far.
Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. First-time novelist Swati Avasthi has created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of 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?
In Split, Swati Avasthi tackles domestic violence, a tough topic by anyone's standards. I've said this before and I'll say it again- I love reading books that deal with the darker side of human nature. Avasthi writes sensitively but isn't afraid to go into the gritty details.
The protagonist, Jace Witherspoon, is by no means perfect; although he's a victim he's made some bad decisions in life. Instead of excusing his actions on account of what he's been through, Avasthi makes him face up to his mistakes and deal with the consequences.
In fact, at no point in this book does Jace get the easy way out, especially not when dealing with his long lost brother, Christian. He's in the trenches, fighting his own battles, which not only contributed to enormous character growth but also made me respect him.
Nothing in Split worked out perfectly, and that's true of real life; things rarely turn out the way we wish they would. Often in YA I get the sense that things are tied up a little too neatly, which was definitely not the case with Split- but it couldn't realistically have been. I liked that the characters' reactions to the events were entirely human. Not entirely forgiving, but not entirely damning, either.
Aside from tackling the harsh realities of what domestic violence victims face, Split has a little time to add in a small romantic element. Again, it's worked for, it's realistic, and it doesn't dominate or detract from the main themes.
I think the message I ultimately got from Split was that ultimately, you're not responsible for other peoples' actions; you can't excuse them, and you can't justify your own actions based on them. All you can do is try your best to do what you believe is right, and that has to be enough. A stunning debut! I'm eagerly anticipating Avasthi's next novel, Bidden.
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