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4.1 45
by Swati Avasthi, Joshua Swanson (Read by)

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A riveting portrait of life after abuse from an award-winning novelist.

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $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


A riveting portrait of life after abuse from an award-winning novelist.

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This powerful, never maudlin debut paints a visceral portrait of a 16-year-old on the run from an abusive father. After being kicked out of his family’s house in Chicago, Jace flees to his estranged older brother Christian’s apartment in Albuquerque, N.Mex., but starting over isn’t easy. An array of expected emotions surface, from Jace’s hatred toward his father, to hope that his mother will leave her abusive marriage, and resentment over Christian’s having abandoned the family years earlier. But it’s the less anticipated side of Jace—gradually revealed over the course of the novel—that makes this story so gripping and heartbreaking. He still loves his father despite the terrifying abuse his family has suffered and is ashamed of his own violent tendencies; ... . When Jace finally turns his back on his past to forge a new future, readers will fully understand the difficulty of the decision. As Avasthi demonstrates, leaving a bad situation and forgiving those responsible is easier said than done. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
This portrait of a family shaped and scarred by abuse asks how both victims and perpetrators can move forward. After a 19-hour drive from Chicago to Albuquerque following a beating at the hands of the father he both loves and fears, Jace Witherspoon shows up at the door of his estranged brother, Christian. Reluctantly, Christian invites Jace to stay in his tiny apartment, and, as Jace builds a life in a new town, each brother is forced to confront his own history. Evocatively specific sensory detail and spare, revealing dialogue bring Jace, Christian, their parents and Christian's perceptive girlfriend, Mirriam, to life with a sometimes warm, sometimes painful realism. When it is revealed that Jace himself beat and began to strangle his girlfriend the night he left Chicago, the narrative neither forgives Jace's violence nor brands him as irredeemable. Readers seeking sensational violence should look elsewhere; this taut, complex family drama depicts abuse unflinchingly but focuses on healing, growth and learning to take responsibility for one's own anger. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
Review, Booklist, January 1, 2010
“A nuanced and mournful work; Avasthi is a writer to watch.” 

Review, Publishers Weekly, January 25, 2010:
“…gripping and heartbreaking.” —Publishers Weekly
Review, School Library Journal, March 2010:
 “…raw and intimate, dramatic and poetic.” School Library Journal
Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2010:
“This taut, complex family drama depicts abuse unflinchingly but focuses on healing, growth and learning to take responsibility for one’s own anger. —Kirkus Reviews

From the Hardcover edition.

Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Sixteen-year-old Jace shows up on his estranged brother's doorstep one day in the hopes that he will be given a place to stay. He has run from an abusive father to the only other person he thinks might understand. Christian reluctantly lets him in, but with the help of his wanna-be-psychologist girlfriend the two brothers eventually take some important steps towards rebuilding their relationships, their lives, and their futures. Jace's story breaks your heart and then fills you with hope. A brutally honest look at the ugliness of the cycle of abuse from its various angles—the mother who refuses to leave, the brother who stands in as protector until he decides to fight back, the brother who shows tendencies toward rage and abuse himself and how it affects everyone around them. This powerful story also shows the mental pain and confusion (guilt, shame, denial) of dealing with an abusive situation but tempers it with the strength of the conscious choices that can lead to the eventual healing, redemption, and breaking of the cycle. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 11 Up—Told from the vantage point of Jace Witherspoon, 16, Swati Avasthi's novel (Knopf, 2010) is about a family deeply impacted by physical and psychological abuse. Jace has grown up watching his father, a stalwart member of the community and a sitting judge, abuse his mother. She tolerates it until he turns his fists against his oldest son, Christian. The family remains intact until Christian runs away. Jace is left behind and becomes a target. When he retaliates against his father, he's thrown out of the house. On that last night in Chicago, Jace lashed out physically at his girlfriend. Disappointed in himself and desperate for help and a place to live, he tracks Christian down in Albuquerque and begins the hard work of recovery. Can an abused child break the cycle of violence? Jace's highs and lows as well as his sarcastic take on what goes on around him is fully realized in Joshua Swanson's narration. Although the novel includes adult language and depictions of physical abuse, it deals with an important issue and should be included in every young adult collection.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1    

Now I have to start lying.  

While I stare through the windshield at the building my brother lives in, I try to think up a good lie, but nothing comes to mind. "I was in the neighborhood"? Yeah, right. It's nineteen hours from Chicago to Albuquerque. If you drive all night. If you only stop for Mountain Dews and KFC extra crispy. By the way, KFC closes way too early in Oklahoma.  

Maybe I should try "I'm just here to borrow a cup of sugar." Pathetic. How about "One more stop in the eternal quest for the perfect burrito"? Unless Christian has gone blind in the last five years, no lie is gonna cut it. My split lip might tip off Clever Boy. I run my tongue over the slit and suck on the blood.  

My face will tell half the story. For the other half, I'll keep my mouth shut and lie by omission. Someday I'll fess up, tell him the whole deal, and then he can perform a lobotomy or whatever it takes. But right now, I just need Christian to open his door, nudge it wider, and let me stay.  

When I open the car door, a ding-ding, ding-ding sound makes me pause. I search the dashboard for clues. Oh--headlights. I'm not used to driving at night. My license is only a couple of months old, but after making it here despite pissy Missouri drivers, tired Oklahomans, middle-finger-saluting Texans, and clueless New Mexicans, I've got the mileage, if not the age.  

The entrance glows under an outdoor light. Inside, the lobby is cramped, and the once-white walls are striated with grime. I scan the list of names next to the buzzer buttons.  

There is no Witherspoon. Our last name is missing.  

I curl a finger, rest my knuckle against the buzzer box and slide it down, stopping at each name to be sure. Gonzales, scribbled in blue ballpoint; MARSHALL in black Sharpie; Ngu in looping red ink; and a name that reminds me of G-rated swearing, SI#*%?  

I yank my camera bag off my shoulder and crouch, setting it on the floor. The zipper grinds open, and I unload my camera and flash, searching for the envelope that my mom handed me before I left. I recheck the address. I'm in the right place, but I notice, for the first time, that the letter was postmarked a month ago.  

I taste copper. If Christian has moved, how am I supposed to find him? The envelope says 4B. Even though 4B is labeled MARSHALL, I press the button, and the buzz echoes in the tiny foyer. Answer. Be home and answer.  

Outside, a FedEx truck roars, pauses, and roars again. Its white profile steals away, leaving only a gasp of gray exhaust. A shrunken man drags the door open and holds it for his shrunken wife. Before they even step over the threshold, they see me and stop.  

I am quite the picture. The split lip isn't the only re-landscaping my father has done. A purple mountain is rising on my jaw, and a red canyon cuts across my forehead.  

They stare at me, and I suck in my lip, hiding what I can.  

At that moment, a distorted voice comes through the speaker: "Who is it?"  

Can I really have this conversation over a speaker? Remember me? The brother you left behind? Well, I've caught up. Even in my imagination, I stop here. I leave out the rest.  

"Um," I say, "FedEx."  

The couple unfreezes. The man grasps his wife's elbow, tugs her outside, shoves the door closed, and helps her hobble away. Great way to start my Albuquerque tenure: scaring the locals.  

The buzzer sounds. I grab the handle, turn it, and climb the steps. On the second floor, I have to stop. The red shag carpet has been accumulating odors since the 1970s and is going to take some getting used to. I block up my nose as if I am swimming and breathe through my mouth. Even worse. Now I can taste the miasma of hash and cat piss. At least, I hope it's cat piss. I close my mouth, wishing I didn't have to breathe as I take the steps two at a time to the fourth floor.   Gold numbers against a dark wood door. I press my palm against it, as if I can befriend the door, get it on my side. I knock and wait. I know some people go all deer-in-the-headlights when they panic. Their lungs stop, their muscles freeze, even their brains silence. Me--my foot's on the gas and the map's flapping out the window. My imagination creates scenes in rapid succession:  

He'll throw open the door and hug me until I can't breathe. There'll be a pizza feast laid out on a banquet table: four pies, all pepperoni and pineapple. (Okay, this part might be influenced by the fact that I haven't eaten in ten hours.) He'll wrap an arm around my shoulder and say, "I've been looking out for you, even from here."  

Or maybe I'll be overwhelmed by the sweet smell of pot, and his hair will be sticking up wildly, and he'll mug me for the $3.84 I have left.  

Or maybe he won't recognize me.  

The door swings open, and a rush of ginger and garlic overtakes the hash/piss scent. My stomach lurches, as if it wants to go inside all on its own. 

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Swati Avasthi teaches creative writing and is working toward her MFA at the University of Minnesota, where she received a grant to complete Split. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and their two children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Split 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Jace has driven across the country and arrives at his older brother's doorstep. He's had enough of his father's beatings and wants to make an escape like Christian did. Christian's built a new life for himself, complete with his own apartment, a good job, and a girlfriend. Taking Jace in is not part of his plans, but he can't turn him away. Jace settles in at school and keeps busy with soccer and working at a bookstore. He's even found an ally in Mirriam, his brother's girlfriend. It seems like Jace is heading for the life he's always wanted. However, it's harder to leave the past behind than he'd thought. Jace is haunted by something he did before he left, and his mother is still in the house with his father. Together, Jace and Christian promise to take her in as well, as soon as she can get out. Is it easier said than done? Will this family be complete again - and can they move on to the future? I finished this novel in one day because I needed to know how it ended! What a fabulous first novel, and I hope that Ms. Avasthi has more in the works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Split, by Swati Avashi, is an excellent novel. The novel had a great plot, the level of suspense was amazing, and the characters and events were very believable. Avashi also spread out the flashbacks evenly through the book. The combination of factors made the novel extremely interesting. The plot of Split will keep you interested from the cover of the book to the last page. The novel starts off with the protagonist, Jace, at his brother’s front door. He is hoping his brother will let him live with him. From that moment on the protagonist deals with two different types of conflicts. One of the conflicts is an internal conflict which deals with Jace not wanting to be an abuser like his father. His father abused his whole family. The father used to just abuse Jace’s brother and mother, but when his brother left he started abusing Jace too. Also the protagonist is trying to adjust to his new life with his brother and trying to forget his old life back in Chicago. Secondly, Jace’s external conflict involves him trying to make sure he doesn’t do anything that may cause his father to find him. The author keeps you guessing. She just keeps you interested by giving you little pieces to the puzzle without giving the story away. The way Avashi set up the plot was great. While reading Split I felt on edge. The whole time I was reading it I was wondering if Jace was going to snap in the middle of a conversation. I was also wondering if his dad would show up randomly and break down the door while Jace and his brother are just sitting in the living room watching television. The suspense just got to a point that made me think,” If I put this novel down I might end up missing something,” and I was right. The characters and events are extremely believable. Jace is a typical 16 year old boy. The way he reacts to events is realistic. For example, when Jace got angry and frustrated, I understood why he felt angry and frustrated. I think I would have reacted the same way. There wasn’t a single point in the novel were I felt that the character or event were unrealistic. In addition, the novel still wasn’t predictable. The author also wrote as if she had gone through that experience or she knew someone who had. The flashbacks in Split were amazing. I liked how Avashi used the flashbacks to tell the story. For example when Jace won’t ask is in the library and won’t the girl out Avashi use a flashback to tell you why he won’t ask her on a date. She also uses it to tell why Jace’s brother left and why he never came back for his brother. Split was a great novel. If you read it you won’t regret it.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dewb More than 1 year ago
Split is an incredible story about a broken boy who tries to figure out how to live after his abusive father kicks him out. He ends up at his older brother's door, a brother who got out when he had the chance and left Jace behind because "[their father] hadn't started on [Jace]". This is not a sappy love story about the abused boy finding a girl. This is Jace's story of how he tries to cope with life, and more importantly how he copes with himself and what he has and hasn't done. I don't think I can put into words how much this book affected me. I don't think I can say much about this book at all, it rendered me completely speechless.  There's is good reasons why this book has won multiple awards. Avasthi pictures a devastating and heartbreaking life of abuse victims and how they cope with life when they've gotten out. Jace's inner conflicts and disappointment in himself is absolutely disgusting, because they shouldn't be there. No child should live with the thoughts in his head or the memories he sees when he closes his eyes. He is trying so hard to make everything right and he fights for a normal life, while still trying to save those he cares for. It's gut-wrenching. It feels wrong to say that this book will be a favorite, because you can't love this book. You can love the writing and you can love the characters. But you can't love the story. That's just wrong. I think I'll always remember this book, it's left a deep imprint on my very being and it will on you too. No one who reads Split will be left unaffected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jwashington114 More than 1 year ago
i really liked this book i though the ending could have been better because they really left me wanting more than they gave me. I love the detail because the author put it in to the right places at the right time which made it perfect. The detail made me cringe at times just imagining it in my head. This is a really good book i do wish there where other books like this one it told a great story.
lillysoto More than 1 year ago
This book is about a young boy, Jace who arrives at his brothers house unexpectedly and runs away from his abusive father. Now hes trying to live a new life but is still worried for his mother and hows she doing because of his dad's problem. He's trying really hard to have a brand new life for himself but old memories just goes with him everywhere and eventually drags himself back to the house hold he tried to escape. He then sees that in order to continue with his life he has to face all his fears. Eventually, he does and is able to move on with his life and is happy to have his brother in his life as well to help and be there for each other. I found this book very good. Its kinda life changing once you think of it.
KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Okay, in case you haven't noticed yet, I like issue books. They're my favorite kind of books to read, nine times out of ten. Avasthi's debut novel was pretty fantastic. It's raw, emotional, and believable. I enjoyed Avasthi's style of writing. The thing that I enjoyed most with Split was the fact that it examines what happens *after* a person leaves a violent situation. Most stories are about someone finding the courage and means to leave and that's it. Split was so much more than that. Leaving is only the first step. It's all the things that happen after you leave that really make the difference. Split shows that just because you leave doesn't mean things will be all rainbows and sunshine. There's hope, but there's no sense of false perfection. Avasthi did a wonderful job. You can read this and other reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad and emotional you love and understand the main character even though he's far from perfect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly a good read; I found myself feeling fairly emotionally invested in Jace and his story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book it was very diffrent then most of my reads i would suggest this if u dont know what to read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AuntChelly More than 1 year ago
Split pulls you in and never lets you go. Jace is someone you fall in love with even though you know his darker side. All the characters are brought to life with all their struggles and hardships and their brighter moments. This story felt real and sadly, it could be the story of anyone's life. It gives a great example of the pain an abused child lives and how hard it can be to break the cycle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sixteen year-old Jace Witherspoon will be changing his last name to MARSHALL, and creating himself a new identity just like his big brother Christian did. Five years ago, toward the end of his high school years, Christian disappeared from home and school and Jace has not seen or heard from him since. At a young age, big brother Christian learned how to antagonize their father, a conservative Chicago judge, so that dad's attention would be deflected, causing him to beat up Christian instead of their mother. By time Christian left home, he had suffered a series of broken fingers, concussions, and even had some skin grafted on his arm where their dad had held it to an electric burner. On a regular basis, their father diffused any potential suspicion by moving the family to a different Chicago neighborhood.After Christian left, Jace had taken over that role of trying to protect their mom from the beatings. But now that Jace has finally broken, he hasn't snuck away like Christian. He's finally swung first before getting himself beaten to a pulp and literally thrown out of the house. Now that she has no protectors left, Jace is determined to somehow get their mom to follow him to Albuquerque before their dad kills her. Split is a very emotional and raw read. The author does a wonderful job with Jace's narrative and as a reader, I felt everything Jace felt. She even did a great job developing Christian's character who is also dealing with the abuse. Their father was a sick, disgusting man and the brothers, along with Christian's girlfriend, who knew nothing about the abuse until Jace came along, help each other to deal and move on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago