Monday, April 25, 2011

Split by Swati Avasthi

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? Readers won’t be able to put this intense page-turner down.

I have always had a thing for books which feature redemption. They emotionally grip and resonate strongly with me. Many of my personal favourite books usually have a sliver of redemption running through them: 

Think THE PIPER'S SON by Melina Marchetta, Carly in Kirsty Eagar's RAW BLUE, Francine River's REDEEMING LOVE, Sherryl Jordan's (amazing) WINTER OF FIRE which all had me weeping and aching and so drawn in with the protagonists story/search/ache for redemption.

And, boy, does Jace from SPLIT join their ranks.

Jace is someone who is so conflicted. He has the weight of guilt on him, a shroud of claustrophobic fear, doubt, self-loathing and then through it all he harbours a tiny spark of hope that flares and gets stamped down. Again and again.

He is someone who has been abandoned by those who should love him the most.

And yet his capacity for love is huge. And painful to bear witness too.

Sorry for starting my review out so intensely, but this book causes an intense response. 

I have read stories of abuse before (fiction and non-fiction) and this one is truly exceptional. The whole scenario is beautifully, achingly portrayed from all sides of the story: the abused, the abuser, the mum, the two brothers and how it impacts them in different ways.

Not only does the story seem true and impeccably well researched and presented, but Avasthi is a gifted writer: her prose is stunning, her ability to create atmosphere,  to bring light into darkness, to add levity to intensity, and to draw a reader in and build a story towards a gripping rising climax. 

Despite the hard punch this book packs I do want you to know it is not just one big tension-filled, heart-aching angst.  Jace is a captivating character. His male POV is one of the finest examples I have come across in YA literature. It is as genuine as Tom in THE PIPER'S SON and Adam in WHERE SHE WENT.

I adored Jace: his love of books and soccer/running, his sweet attempts at cooking, his sarcasm and intelligence and his bruised but enormous capacity for love. He's utterly endearing despite his rough edges. He often made me grin and also swoon. His POV is easy to slip into, compelling and addictive. 

Also, while the romance was not the main plot thread ~ it is just wonderfully done. It's as if Avasthi has  pared it down to the finest, most choice tender and conflicted moments so that the scenes that are portrayed are like a picture that paints a thousand words. I was so rooting for him and his new interest (be on the look-out for some tender and swoon-y scenes that will make you ache ~ and keep your fingers crossed).

Avasthi has a character who is so conflicted in himself, having secretly endured a nightmare and also having done some despicable acts himself. Yet he is not beneath redemption. And I teared up as the story was coming to a close ~ touched and moved and just blown-away by what he endured and who he had become and what he was becoming. 

I want to shred my own skin, yank every thread of DNA out, and give it to her as an offering. But would that be enough? Is there any way I can fix this? I shouldn't even apologize since that will shove the burden of forgiveness onto her. Who the hell am I to ask for her forgiveness? Who the hell am I to twist her into someone who could forgive the unforgivable? I know exactly who I can turn her into. (jace. page 109)

Recommended: An exceptional story that will stand the test of time. I think you should read this.

SPLIT was chosen as the YA book of 2010 by the Cybils Awards. (read what the judges have to say)
Also: the seven 2010 finalists for the Cybils which include some other outstanding books for teens such as Summers SOME GIRLS ARE, Christopher's STOLEN, and Kelly's HARMONIC FEEDBACK

Also: can you see the two faces in profile on the cover?

Split @ goodreads
Read the first chapter @ Amazon (I was hooked from the first chapter. Completely SOLD)


  1. Dang, I did not see the faces until you pointed them out!! Very cool. This sounds like one I'll have to get - I checked it out already, and yay! It's available internationally.

    Saw on Goodreads that you're trying to read Delirium. I checked that one out from the library, got only about 2 pages into it and I was thinking the premise was really way out there and I wasn't sure if I could suspend my disbelief that well to see it through. Eager to hear what you have to say about it.

  2. Haha, didn't notice the faces either! I've seen this book around, I definitely need to read it now :) OH, the books about redemption probably have the highest chance of making me cry :P

  3. Haha I didn't see the faces either!

    Nomes! Jeez, what a fantastic review! I've got to stop reading your reviews, my TBR pile can't take much more lol. *sigh*

  4. sounds like another brilliant one, I'm not that into contemp YA (prefering adult contemp) but after reading Brown Skin Blue recently I'm starting to swing around :-) Maybe this should be my next YA contemp pick...

  5. Exceptional review Nomes, you've 100% sold me!! I'm off to see if I can snag this one :)

  6. This seems like an amazing book. I'd never heard of it, so thank you for pointing this one out.
    Great review :)

  7. I missed this one and every since it won the Cybils have been hoping to read it. Reading your review makes me want it even more.

  8. *puts Split on hold at library*

    How could I NOT read it after this amazing review? I'd never heard of it before now, so thank you!

  9. Wonderful review - this book definitely does cause an intense response.

  10. I never noticed the faces on the cover before!

    I think that's a brilliant piece of excerpt. I love redemption-themed books too.

    And my wishlist is piling higher. Not that I'm complaining. Damn, I need 72 hour days!

  11. Don't be sorry. I love books that cause an intense response!

    I will definitely take your advice and read this. I've been fascinated with the cover since it was released. The key/face thing is too cool.

    Stunning review. Thanks Nomes.

  12. I've heard good things about this book, but I've never really given it much thought.

    It sounds intense, but good. Thanks for the great review!

    Jennifer of Little Shelf

  13. I'm a dummy...I never noticed the faces! This book makes you think...a lot! Great review!

  14. Wonderful review, sounds like this book made a real impact and I'll definitely check it out. Thanks

  15. I think I need this book! You reviews always are so beautifully written :)

  16. I kept nodding my head and internally saying YES throughout this review. Isn't Jace such a phenomenal character? Avasthi didn't sugarcoat anything. (and I loved Jace's brother too--they both endured the same abuse but they reacted in completely different ways!)

    Fantastic review, Nomes. I'm so happy you finally read SPLIT :)

  17. I have this book on my wishlist since ages! This is exactly the kind of book I would love. Thanks for the wonderful review, Nomes!

  18. Wow, what a great review! And with it you make me want to read two books at the same time:D Spit + The Piper's Son, really! I love emotionally engaging novels!

  19. One of your best reviews yet, I think, Nomes! And that's saying something, because your writing is always incredible. This book sounds amazing! I love the cover, too, so brilliant.

  20. I ADORED this book. Jace is amazing and his story just comes at you out of nowhere. Wonderful review Nomes!

  21. Can someone please tell me some quotes from the book and their pages? i read the book it was GREAT!! but i forgot to write down the quotes and i can't cause i am too busy cleaning,working and cooking for my family. Please answer back A.S.A.P. at my url


Thanks for the commenty love :)