Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hard Place: Split

I'm moving faster through the 2010 YA Novels Cybils finalists, since that's the largest category left for me this year.  Luckily King County has Swati Avasthi's Split for my NOOK, so I could read it conveniently.  I also tend to read my NOOK in short bursts, which helped me with this novel, which had me in turns dreading to see what main character Jace would do next, or what would happen next.

The plot follows Jace's escape from his abusing father; after Jace finally hits back and gets thrown out, his mother gives him the address of his older brother who had disappeared from Jace's life five years ago.  Then things start piling up -- Jace seems determined to sabotage himself.  I started to wonder if Avasthi was deliberately making him hard to like -- he's a thief, he's rude to his peers, he resents his brother's girlfriend, he lies to his brother.  Pieces of his past float up, memories of the abuse he watched his family suffer, and then what happened when his father included him in the violence.  And the destructive relationship with his girlfriend that ended with him hitting her, the act that really precipitated his flight.

Jace is trying really hard to not be his father, and he's terrified that he's already lost this battle.  He tries to keep all girls away from him, fearing that he'll erupt again.  And he's terrified about his mother and desperately wants her to escape with him.  Avashti depicts the relationship between Jace and his older brother Christian with harsh accuracy; Christian is both the beloved older brother from Jace's childhood and a young man still trying to deal with his own abused childhood that he's not sure he escaped.  Jace's arrival also brings forward the fears for his mother that Christian has buried deep, mainly because there is nothing he can do. The story of Jace's step forward is a very powerful one, although I don't think I'll order the print version to give my thirteen year old.

The climax of the novel happens around Thanksgiving, so I'm glad I finished this one in time for Turkey Day.  And I'm grateful for all the good reading the Cybils have brought me this year.

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