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.
First note that this was an audio book that I checked out from my library using their Overdrive Media. I actually used it on my computer instead of downloading it to my iPod because I took a little spill on the ice yesterday and am resting today. The narrator of this novel was Joshua Swanson and I'd say he was perfect for the role. He didn't change his voice too much for the female characters but there was no confusion as to who was speaking. He was supposed to sound like a young teenage boy and that's exactly what he sounded like. His feelings came through at the right time and even though the subject matter was uncomfortable to me, he was believable as he retold the story of what happened.
The subject matter. I didn't know what Split was about, didn't even read the information, just decided I needed another book to listen to and checked it out. It was about spousal and child abuse. And I mean really bad abuse. The story starts with Jace at an apartment building looking for his last name on one of the buzzers. His brother is supposed to live there. He's got a letter from his mother that his brother sent to her with that address less than a month ago. But the name on the apartment says Marshall. That isn't their last name. He buzzes it anyway, says FedEx and is let in. The woman that answers the door slams the door in his face. Why wouldn't she. His lip is split. His face is swollen from the last beating he took from his dad. But he got a few punches in this last time. That's why he had to leave. His dad kicked him out because he finally hit back.
His brother had escaped many years ago. He'd taken the abuse for his mother. The one time they'd tried to leave had been horrible. What their father had done had been horrific and you don't find out until almost the end of the story how horrific it was. My jaw hung open listening. I take back all the things I said about not being able to become emotionally involved in an audio book. I was riveted. Glued. Appalled. And terrified. I knew what was coming and just kept shaking my head saying no, not possible. A man could not do that to his wife. But I was there could see it happen. It just took the right book to open me up emotionally. Or maybe I just had to have the right subject matter. But this one, you have to read or listen to. I will want to own a copy of the novel.
Abuse is hard to listen to or read about. Hearing Jace talk about it and he and his brother don't really discuss it much, is hard. Jace narrates the story and befriends his brother's girlfriend, Miriam. She is a teacher at the school he attends and also lives in the apartment next door. Christian is only grudgingly letting Jace stay with him, despite the fact that Jace is paying rent and helps clean and follows his rules. Jace has not learned how to control his anger and he's a hothead, though he let's it bubble on the inside. But like a teakettle it has to boil over and it does eventually and it has before. And he's lied to his brother. He's done what Christian considers unforgivable, but then Jace feels that Christian has done some unforgivable things, too. As brothers, they are as dysfunctional as they were as a family. Christian is closed off to us as much as he is to Jace. Jace lets us in and we think we know him until he makes the big reveal. Then we feel a little betrayed. But the most enigmatic person is the girlfriend, Miriam. She goes from resenting Jace, considering him an "at risk" teen to allowing him to live with her even after Christian kicks him out. She's part mother, psychologist, rescuer, listener, friend and refuge.
Jace's one goal, throughout the story, is to get his mom to leave his dad, a prominent judge in Chicago. She promises as he's pulling away that she will. They email secretly and she says she'll come by Thanksgiving. Christian reveals he's been sending her money every month, but Jace never knew. Never had any idea they were in contact until she handed him the envelope of money with Christian's address on it. Jace practices for weeks making a turkey and all the fixings in preparation for her coming. But Christian doesn't get his hopes up. When they get an email two days before Thanksgiving saying she's fine, they know she's not coming. Because to make it to Albuquerque by Thanksgiving she would have had to already left. This sets off a chain of events that ends with Christian and Jace not speaking to each other and Jace living with Miriam. Of course it's a long way from two days before Thanksgiving to there, but I don't want to reveal anything.
This audio book was slow at times, but then the pace picked up and then it becomes so tension filled and as I said before horrific (it's the only word I can use to describe what happens) that I found myself sitting up cringing and holding my hands, wanting to talk to someone about what was going on. If this novel can help one teen escape an abusive home or relationship or show a mother what happens to her children if she stays in an abusive marriage or relationship, Swati Avasthi will have done the world a favor. But even if that doesn't happen, it will give those of us, not in that situation a little more compassion and empathy for someone stuck in that situation, to understand why it's so hard to leave. How the patterns are made and even though it isn't right, it becomes their version of normal. One great piece of advice I got from a therapist once was just because it's normal doesn't mean it's right. So true, but we have to learn what is wrong for ourselves, no one can teach us. The characters in this book, all in their own way, learn that.
I recommend this book for any age YA reader 12 and up. The abuse scenes are graphic but there are only a few and their is dating abuse as well as child abuse and spousal abuse. (All the abuse is physical) It's probably something all teens should be aware of. No, not probably. Every teen should know about dating abuse. And anyone stuck in an abusive relationship might gain some hope from this novel. It isn't HEA, but there is hope.