Wednesday, January 4, 2012


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Sometimes I wonder why words can't actually make us bleed."

Those (few) of you who regularly read my reviews and generally put up with me on a daily basis already know I'm kind of a logic and control freak. I'm not of the tear-shedding, heart-warming or hair-pulling kind.
However, occasionally, I do find books that really touch me on a deeper level, that really make me feel inside the story and the characters' heads, up until the point when it really becomes empathy.
I ascribe this empathy completely to the writer's writing skills, to his or her capacity to capture the essence of, say, frustration, or happiness, or grief and translate it so well into words and situations and stories that I get "contaminated" by them. If that happens, the communicative purpose is accomplished.

Split is one of those books. It got to a point, about 60% in, that I decided to go to bed, but then turned and tossed and turned and tossed until I had to get up and go finish the bloody book. I couldn't stop thinking about it.

The story is fairly simple: Jace has an abusive father. After the umpteenth beating he takes to protect his mother, he gets kicked out of the house, for good. He goes looking for his older brother, Christian, who has vanished from their lives five years earlier to escape the same beatings, hoping to get their mother out of that same situation and to build a new life for himself.

Jace's voice is one of the most vibrant I have ever encountered in YA literature. He's one of those characters I seem to love so much, the ones I recognize as grey. He's not a bad guy, but he's certainly not a good guy either. In his words, he pledges to be " a bastard-no-longer". Somehow, this kind of character is the one that I find most believable and interesting, because it's a little more complex than most.

Jace has come to a very important point in his life, a crossroad which will determine his future and the person he'll be as an adult. It's up to him to decide whether he'll be like his father or if he'll become his own person and this internal struggle not to let the violence that he's witnessed all his life define him is the focal point around which the whole story revolves. In describing this, Swati Avasthi really excels, in my opinion: his ambivalence, his being split is so well portrayed, I felt it so much, that I couldn't help but feel ambivalent and split too toward a situation I would otherwise have condemned right from the beginning. She really puts you in a place where it's difficult to judge, to make a clear cut division between bad and good, because the line gets blurry in the middle.
This kind of blurriness seems to extend to all other characters too. From the selfish, loving though broken brother who might or not help Jace out, to the prying but caring girlfriend, to the helpless mother who's digging her own grave, every character lets us see different facets of the truth and lets us decide whether their choices are all condemnable or not.

I don't think that with these few, disconnected sentences I have even barely managed to do justice to such an intense and poignant story but I hope your interest will be piqued at least enough to make you want to pick it up and see for yourself. Maybe it will not touch you in the same way that it touched me, but I am fairly sure indifference will not be one the feelings you'll be left with.
A really great start to my new reading year, I will read anything this author publishes.


  1. Wow! What an awesome review. I already added this book to my to-read list when I saw your 5 star rating and read the summary, but this review really seals it for me and I just added it to my "to-buy now" list. The fact that you are not normally the weepy type but was still touched on an emotional level by this book really says a lot. I have a love/hate relationship with those kinds of books. I love books that make me feel that deeply but at the same time hate how I spend hours crying over fictional characters lol. I'm glad you enjoyed this so much. I hadn't even heard of this book before so thanks for putting this one on my radar. :)

  2. This is such a powerful book. Also, it's not despaired sad, it's more like frustrating sad, but you'll see when you get to it. And it wasn't on my radar either, I have to thank Nomes and her Faves of 2011 for discovering it!

  3. Wow that was a well weitten and compelling review Lisa. It is oh too true though no one is really truly completely good or bad! I think we are all varying shades of gray! Excellent!

  4. That is why sometimes (a lot of times) fictional characters seem to be the archetype of evil or too good to be true. All those swoonworthy guys MUST be living on another planet, 'cause I haven't seen any around this neighborhood :D

  5. "Split" is a compelling read from the first line to the breathless end. While the story's not a thriller per se, this relationship novel definitely had me on the edge of my seat all the way til three AM. This is an excellent book for older young adults and even adult readers will enjoy the finely-drawn characterization and heart-pounding pacing.
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