This book is nothing short of phenomenal! As we are introduced to our narrator, Jace Witherspoon, he is travelling from Chicago to Albuquerque---in search of shelter and sanity. Jace is one of the strongest characters I have come across in quite a long time. I don't say this because he only makes great choices and he's a natural hero. I say this because he is breathtakingly honest when it comes to his flaws. His brokenness and his vulnerabilities make him a hero to readers.
Jace comes to Albuquergue to find his older brother, who fled their abusive home years before him. But Christian has made a new reality for himself. He put himself through university, has a new life and a girlfriend, and he's changed his last name to erase the past he fled. He is less than welcoming when Jace shows up at his doorstep with his face smashed in and no place to go.
Christian's girlfriend, Merriam, who is also a teacher, was a wonderful calming character in the midst of the chaos. After getting over the initial shock of Jace's presence, Merriam was the mediator between Christian and Jace. Though Jace took quite a while to warm up her, he eventually liked her 'meddling' and concern.
I could not believe the raw honesty of this book. I was compelled to read on and on...like one is compelled to rubberneck as they drive by the scene of an accident. Jace's honesty is so brutal; not only when he's talking to others, but also when he is internally ruminating. It's fascinating to see him come to terms with the physical abuse he fled and the heavy secrets he carried away with him. He is determined to become a new person--one who looks and acts nothing like his father--yet feels somehow stuck in the role in which he senses he belongs. This is the reason he can't quite allow himself to get close to Dakota, the girl who helps him get a new job in a bookstore in Albuquerque.
With Merriam's gentle persuasions, the brothers begin to form a new kind of reality. Christian, though, is unwilling to talk about the beatings he took from his father. Christian has truly put the past behind him. In his new life, the old life just did not happen. The wall he built for himself begins to crumble, though, with Jace's arrival into his carefully crafted life.
Avasthi has woven a remarkable story of physical abuse in a family setting. Not only that, she has perfected the relationship of brothers flung into this terrible reality. The guilt, the silence, the covering up and the taking on abuse for others. Everything is just so real that it splits you down the middle. It was such an emotional rollercoaster of a read. I couldn't read it fast enough. There was so much riding in the balance. The highest stakes, for this reader, was the relationship between the brothers. Such an important relationship, that of siblings. I had to find out if Christian and Jace would make it. I needed to know.
I really don't want to give too much away. Buckle up, because this is a ride you have to take. It's a serious and believable ride. One that will let you see exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of a house ruled by the iron fist of an abusive parent/spouse. You have to read Split.
-Great characters, excellent pacing
-Avasthi has amazing insights into the teenage boy
-A great 'brothers' book
-This would be the perfect read to get reluctant readers back on the path to reading!