SPLIT by Swati Avasthi

SplitSixteen-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother, Christian, with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father), $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. Award-winning 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.   (Add to Goodreads)


First confession: It took me a ridiculously long time to notice the silhouettes of faces on the cover. I thought they were just cool, whittled-down keys. Also, I think I like the keys better than the faces.

Also, I’m not sure why I’m admitting this.

Second confession: I expected to like this book for the voice–based off of that first paragraph in the blurb–and not much else.

I was incredibly wrong.

Yeah, it’s a book that deals really heavily with abuse. But that’s not all it’s about. At its heart, Split is my favourite kind of story–a story about two brothers. It’s about who they’ve both become in the six years that’ve passed since they last saw each other, knew each other. In the six years since Jace’s big brother, Christian, ran away to escape their dad.

It’s about who they are now, on the other side of those six long years. Christian’s made a new life from himself, gotten a new start. But when he ran away, there was nothing left to distract their dad–he started in on Jace.

It’s also about who they want to become, now that they’ve gotten away from their dad and found each other again.

But obviously, it’s not going to be that easy.

Jace comes to find Christian when his dad kicks him out for standing up to him. It’s late at night and Jace has nowhere to go, but Jace’s mom–slips out behind him to give him his car keys, a small handful of ones and fives she’s squirreled away over the years, and an envelope with Christian’s address.

Jace isn’t so sure about that–he hasn’t heard from his big brother since Christian disappeared from their lives, and he’s hurt that Christian kept in touch with their mom but not him. Not only that, but going after Christian is risky–there’s a chance Jace could lead their dad right back to his brother, bring Christian’s life crashing back down.

And when Jace arrives, Christian’s well aware of that possibility. At first, he’s closed off, unwilling to try to connect too much with Jace. He’s mild-mannered, emotionally distant, and above all, cautious–those are his defense mechanisms. That’s what keeps him safe.

And for a younger brother who kind of idolises him, even at seventeen years old, it’s incredibly frustrating.

But Jace really can’t blame Christian for not trusting him. When Jace ended up at his brother’s door, he came with a lot of baggage–and secrets.

He wants a fresh start, a new life. But he wasn’t able to leave behind the old part of his life he hates–and fears–most.


Basically, Jace Witherspoon shares a lot of demons with Dean Winchester–but instead of idolising and wanting to be like his dad, Jace is trying desperately to avoid following in his footsteps.

What thenBut when Jace’s secrets catch up with him, he’s going to have to suck it up and face the past if he wants to move forward.

Like I said before, I initially wasn’t sure if I would like this book beyond Jace’s narrative style. But it delivered on more than that front. I loved watching that complicated relationship between the brothers evolve, and Avasthi does a great job of weaving in seamless subplots so the plot works on multiple levels.

She’s also really great at portraying a Big Issue in all its complexity, on a personalised level, without getting preachy, reducing the situation to stereotypes, or coming down heavy-handed. According to her bio on the dust jacket, Avasthi coordinated at a legal clinic victims of domestic violence, and her experiences there really give Split a sense of authenticity.

Basically, it’s brilliant. 4/5 stars.


2 thoughts on “SPLIT by Swati Avasthi

  1. I lost it at Dean Winchester.

    I NEED THIS BOOK. I NEED IT IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. I love that cover so so much (I like the keys better too, but it took me a long time to see the faces…I just couldn’t find them after you mentioned them) and then you said DEAN WINCHESTER and pfft. I’m a goner. Although the character’s name is Jace?! That makes me think too much of City of Bones, which I love half to death, so that might be a small issue for me. But I’m adding it on goodreads right now!
    Thanks for stopping by @ Notebook Sisters!

  2. A Winchester makes everything better, right?

    On the plus side, it’s first-person POV–so the fact that he’s named Jace might not be quite so distracting. I can see how that’d be a major pain if it were third-person, though. Jace is one of those names like Percy or Gale–you don’t see it often, so it pretty much gets stuck with a certain character.

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