Violence and secrecy. The two go together. Family violence and its insidious effects on family members is the theme of this masterfully written novel, Split by Swati Avasthi.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.- From Goodreads
Several years ago a dear friend escaped an unhappy marriage. After she got away she shared with me the level of emotional abuse that went on behind the closed doors of her marriage. As she started the healing process she read somewhere that abuse continues often because the victim doesn't say "STOP IT", particularly in the beginning and because of the pattern of secrecy that develops.
I kept thinking of this as I read Split. The violence in this family was allowed to go unchecked for so many years because of the secrecy. Even family members wouldn't talk to one another. So there was little opportunity for true emotional escape even after a physical escape.
Split is a hard book to read (though I read it in three days). Even though there was great character development and an interesting storyline I doubt this book will get much traction in the YA world because the theme of domestic violence is such a depressing, negative subject. That said, I think it is an important book to have in the library. Books are such wonderful, neutral advice-givers. But here is one thing I wish the book had (editors are you paying attention?): I wish the back of this book had a list of resources where a teenager trapped in domestic violence could go for help. I was admittedly shocked that the book didn't have it. Perhaps the paperback edition could add this?!
Another note: Split by Swati Avasthi was the Cybil Award winner for YA fiction this year. Way to go Ms. Avasthi, your first novel and its a winner! Congratulations.