Split by Swati Avasthi

At 16 years old, Jace Witherspoon already knows what it's like to lead a double life. To his friends and classmates, Jace is a smart and talented soccer star with a bright future and a devoted mother and father behind him all the way. The truth behind that pack of lies is that Jace and his mother live in constant fear of his father's violent and volatile temper. They've explained away countless 'injuries' and even moved several times in order to ensure that no one will ever discover the horrible truth.

After a particularly brutal fight with his father, Jace is forced to leave in the middle of the night with only a few dollars in his pockets and a scrawled address for his estranged older brother Christian. Jace hasn't seen or spoken to his only brother in the years since Christian ran away from home - cutting off all ties with his family - for reasons similar to Jace's own flight. Unsure of their newly reestablished relationship, Jace and Christian tip-toe around the truth of their painful history; while unconsciously uncovering landmines of memory and hurt at every turn. Try as the brothers might to make a clean split with their troubled pasts, they both know the one thing they have to do to move forward, is to go back.

Split is one of those novels that will utterly break you, then pick you up, give you a big hug and then proceed to hold your hand until the end. Domestic violence is never an easy topic to discuss, but Swati Avasthi manages not to simply capture the sensational aspects of such a horrible crime, but the resulting backlash of emotional trauma that inevitably follows in its wake instead. That said, although Split is definitely a serious novel with a serious message, Jace Witherspoon is such a relate-able and often even funny character, his story is not overwhelmingly depressing. It simply grabs you from page one and refuses to let you walk away. Take these few opening lines for example:
Now I have to start lying.

While I stare through the windshield at the building my brother lives in, I try to think up a good lie, but nothing comes to mind. "I was in the neighborhood"? Yeah, right. It's nineteen hours from Chicago to Alburquerque. If you drive all night. If you only stop for Mountain Dews and KFC extra crispy. By the way, KFC closes way too early in Oklahoma.

Maybe I should try "I'm just here to borrow a cup of sugar." Pathetic. How about "One more stop in the eternal quest for the perfect burrito." Unless Christian has gone blind in the last five years, no lie is gonna cut it. My split lip might tip off Clever Boy. I run my tongue over the slit and suck on blood.

My face will tell half the story. For the other half, I'll keep my mouth shut and lie by omission. Someday I'll fess up, tell him the whole deal, and then he can perform a lobotomy or whatever it takes. But right now, I just need Christian to open his door, nudge it wider, and let me stay.
Who is this boy? What has he been through and why does he need an excuse to see his own brother? If you are anything like me, these and other insistent questions pop up immediately.
From that very first line, you catch a glimpse of what a layered character Jace is. His echoes of self-doubt and fear come across loud and clear, yet at the same time you immediately understand that this is someone who has had to learn how to look out for himself. 

For a character who had suffered so much, I fully expected to pity Jace. I did not expect to fall in love with the kid. How could I not? He is a deeply layered individual with a passion for books and soccer with an exceptionally deep-rooted sense of loyalty to his family. And yes, he definitely is extremely screwed up in the head due to his father's influence. Perhaps the most moving passages from Split detail Jace's struggles to break the cycle of domestic violence in his own life. At different times, Jace's words are equally horrifying, poetic, and often even brutal in their honesty. Yet there is a hopeful underlying message and a satisfying ending that I truly didn't see coming whatsoever. A truly raw novel, Split is a must-read that should not be missed.


To honor National Domestic Violence Awareness month, author Swati Avasthi has combined a blog tour for her debut novel, Split, with a charity auction. Over 40 authors, agents and editors have donated manuscript critiques, personalized books, and more to an online auction that anyone – reader, writer, booklover -- can bid on and buy. All proceeds go to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. In addition to the auction, Avasthi is donating $1/comment on her 26-stop, month-long blog tour, coordinated by Kari Olson at Teen Book Scene. If she reaches her goal and cap of $250, she will double the donation. Follow the tour, get stuff you want, and make a difference.

Blog Tour Auction

As part of the Split blog tour and charity auction, I'd like to highlight one item up for bid from the amazingly fantastic list of items available. Pete Hautman and Mary Logue have generously donated a personalized and signed set of The Bloodwater Mysteries.

book source: provided by the publisher


Nomes said...

this is such a great great review. i've wanted this book ever since i read the first chapter online but i am waiting (a little less patiently) for the paperback release (or an australian release - if one of our publishers pick it up...)

Amy said...

Great review of this book! I'm not a part of the tour but scheduled my review of it during the tour anyway just to get some more publicity for the book and the tour. I really liked the book.

Karen said...

I loved Split and I was surprised at the amount of humor in the story despite the weighty subject matter.
Excellent review.

Michelle said...

Nomes- I can understand your impatience. This book was truly wonderful and I hope you can track down a copy soon!

Amy - What a great thing for you to do. I was more than happy to help her promote the book too ;)

Karen - Yes! Such deft storytelling. This one took me utterly by surprise.

ReggieWrites said...

I completely loved SPLIT. I really resonated with the characters even though I've never experienced domestic violence. The emotions are so real. SO real.