Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Avasthi, Swati.. 2010. SPLIT. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375863400 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

After being kicked out by his abusive father, sixteen-year-old Jace Witherspoon has driven from Chicago to Albuquerque with nothing but the clothes on his back. He has landed on the doorstep of his estranged older brother and is looking for a fresh start. As the brothers become reacquainted, they are forced to confront their inherited anger issues and to figure out how to live life after the split from abuse.

Avasthi’s first person narration gives Jace’s hurt, self-loathing, and deep anger a sad and biting edge that feels genuine without being overly angst filled or self pitying. From page one, Jace’s feeling of being damaged by his father’s behavior is evident. “The handle rotates, and Mirriam says, ‘No, don’t. There’s something wrong with him.’ I snort. She doesn’t even know my name, and she’s nailed me in one shot.”

Jace’s story is complicated by his own budding abusive tendencies and by the inaction of the mother he left behind. Running away from abuse is harder when the abused realizes he’s become the abuser and readers will feel Jace’s pain when he looks in the proverbial mirror. This may be a demanding book to share because of the sensitive topic, but it is a compelling story and well worth the emotional investment.

Invite readers to a discussion of emotions and patterns of behavior that can unwittingly be inherited from parents. Have them complete a first person narration exercise. Focus on how to convey characters’ emotions when there is no omniscient third person narrator.

Other novels about teens dealing with abuse:
Crutcher, Chris. STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES. ISBN 9780060094898
Werlin, Nancy. THE RULES OF SURVIVAL. ISBN 9780142410714

By Cecily Ponce de Leon

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