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Flashback Friday: SPLIT by Swati Avasthi
Aug 22nd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

flashback-friday-featuredFor more information on FLASHBACK FRIDAY, check out Fiction Fare

6270483SPLIT by Swati Avasthi

Hardcover, 280 pages

Published March 9, 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Buy Here: (prices from $5.99 – $8.07) IndieBoundAmazon  | Barnes & Noble |Audible | Book Depository

Awards:

Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee (0)ABA Indie Next Book for Children’s Spring (2010)Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2011)Parents’ Choice Silver AwardInternational Reading Association Award for Young Adult Fiction (2011)

From Goodreads:

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.

My review posted in June, 2011:

Split is an extremely important YA novel about child abuse and spousal abuse told from the point-of-view of the MC Jace. There is no doubt that Swati’s has been placed in the elite category of brilliant authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, Cheryl Rainfield, and Jay Asher. It is more than well-deserved and so are the awards Split received. Jace is one of the most unforgettable male YA characters I have ever read. The story he narrates is raw, honest, heartbreaking, revealing. I will be haunted by his experiences. 
****spoiler*****
One of the most troubling scenes was a flashback of Jace beating his girlfriend, but the way he recognizes his mistake and takes responsibility shows tremendous growth and insight. The hardest part for me was lumping Jace in the “category” of abuser when he had been victimized, but Swati does a phenomenal job of showing the reader how easy that line can be crossed.
*****end of spoiler*****
Ultimately, this is a novel about hope. One of breaking free – making the split – from the past and moving on to building a future. The title reveals many “key” moments, plot points in the the book that readers should ponder the meaning of the word and the different scenes that it represents.
Split is a do-not-miss-YA novel! I will be recommending it over and over and over again.

CHASING SHADOWS by Swati Avasthi, illustrated by Craig Phillips – Review
Jan 3rd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

CHASING SHADOWS

by , illustrated by  

Published: September 24, 2013

Knopf Books for Young Readers

 

From Goodreads:15756269

Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftops to rooftop.

But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…

After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crisis. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend…and how many ways to be lost.

My review:

Swati Avasthi pushes the limits, and then goes even further to tell a raw, emotional, story of murder, friendship, love, sanity, and mental health. Using a combination of a graphic novel and first person narrative from two perspectives, readers will be hooked into the world Avasthi masterfully created. Bravo!!!!

Chasing Shadows tells the story of twins Corey and Holly, HS seniors and the children of a Chicago police officer. When a gunman targets their car and shoots Corey pointblank and barely leaves Holly alive, everything changes. The murder was witnessed by Corey’s girlfriend Savitri who was stopped in her car, waiting for them to go through the intersection after Corey and Holly became stuck at a red light. The three friends have had a long history together. They also have been involved in a unique sport – Freerunning, which involves incredible athleticism. The scenes describing their activities are breathtaking.

After Corey dies, Holly’s mental health slips. Readers will be brought into her world, which is often depicted in graphic novel format. It’s no less than astonishing.

I commend Avasthi for this BRAVE novel. The time and energy, the emotion, the heart, pain, and ultimately her soul had to have been poured into this novel. I think readers will learn a lot about taking risks, what friendship means and when you should put yourself first over a friend, and how one’s sanity can slip quickly and how critical it is for those around to recognize the symptoms. Everyone copes with loss differently. This novel showed an honest portrayal of how people can react in times of deep grief. The novel doesn’t have all the answers, but it shows that one needs to grasp on to what you can in order to find a way to continue, to have hope, to live.

Highly, highly recommend this novel.

MORE INFORMATION:swati_bw

About Swati – from her website:

Swati Avasthi has been writing fiction since she read Little House in the Big Woods at age five. Emily Bronte, Harper Lee, and others furthered her addiction. She institutionalized her habit at the University of Chicago, where she received her B.A., and at the University of Minnesota, where received her M.F.A. Her writing has received numerous honors including a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, the Thomas H. Shevlin Fellowship, Loft’s Mentor Series Award, and a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She is a creative writing professor at Hamline University and lives in the Twin Cities with her two large-ish dogs, two small-ish kids, and one husband (though he is worth two).

About her award-winning debut novel, Split: 

Split received the 2011 International Reading Association Awardthe 2010 Cybils award,a 2010 Silver Parent’s Choice Award, and the New Mexico State Book AwardYALSA,CCBC, and Bank Street were among those who included it their “best of” lists, and the Association of Booksellers for Children made it a New Voices Pick. It has been translated into four languages (German, Dutch, Korean, and Hungarian) and was nominated for fourteen other state awards.

“Avasthi has a great ear for naturalistic dialogue… Jace’s own history of violence makes him a complex and tortured protagonist, and his process of letting go is heart wrenching. A nuanced and mournful work; Avasthi is a writer to watch.”
Booklist
“This powerful, never maudlin debut paints a visceral portrait of a 16-year-old on the run from an abusive father.”
Publisher’s Weekly (spoiler)
“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 (spoiler)
“Jace’s narration is raw and intimate, dramatic and poetic; readers will feel his internal struggle keenly.”
School Library Journal (spoiler)

Swati Avasthi’s website

Goodreads

 

 

Take Five with Swati Avasthi, Author of SPLIT
Aug 3rd, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

An interview with award-winning YA author, Swati Avasthi

Enter to win a SIGNED copy of SPLIT by leaving your name and e-mail address under comments. If you follow this blog (it’s easy click on Google Follower) then you qualify for a another entry. Tweet it or post on Facebook and it is another one. Just let me know. Giveaway ends August 16th, 2011 at 8:00 PM CST. Good luck. 

 

Congrats to Andrea – winner of SPLIT!

On June 15, 2011 I had the privilege to spend part of the morning hanging out and talking with the incredibly gifted and warm Swati Avasthi. She was in Milwaukee to speak and sign books for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. I read SPLIT and was blown away.  There is no doubt that Swati is in the elite category of brilliant authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, Cheryl Rainfield, and Jay Asher.

Swati and me, June 15th at the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival

SPLIT is an extremely important must-read YA novel about child abuse and spousal abuse told from the point-of-view of the younger son, Jace–one of the most unforgettable male YA characters I have ever read. The story he narrates is raw, honest, heartbreaking, revealing. I am haunted (in a good way) by his experiences.

Ultimately, SPLIT is a novel about hope, a novel where the main character breaks free – makes the split – from the past and moves on to build a future. The title reveals many “key” moments, and is a metaphor for many situations presented in  the novel. Readers should ponder the meaning of the word and the different scenes that it represents.

Here’s my question and answer “Take Five with Swati Avasthi.”

1. The title of your book, SPLIT, represents many different situations presented in your novel. It’s a powerful metaphor and symbolizes so many aspects of Jace and Christian’s lives.  Were you conscious of this when you were writing the book or did it evolve? What would you like to see readers take from it?

Thanks.

Well… I wish I could say that I was brilliant enough to say I had planned it all, or even that the title evolved, but no.  The title was practically the last word I wrote for this novel.  My editor wisely told me that my former title, GRAVEDIGGERS, was too metaphorical and too paranormal-sounding for the content of SPLIT.  So, I went on a rather long title hunt — over 200 titles that my husband and I came up with and quickly disregarded.  After a couple of weeks of that, you start getting a little slap-happy.  So we started joking about how everything else I’ve had published (personal essay, short stories, flash fiction) were all one word, titled with the letter “S.”  And my husband got out the dictionary, opened it to the “S”s and handed it to me.

I submitted the title, along with 7 or 8 other titles to my editor, who took it to marketing.  They returned, saying that I could chose from two: SPLIT of WHAT WE LEAVE.  I chose SPLIT for a few reasons, but primarily because it has so many resonances within the work:  it seemed to capture the physical and emotional state of Jace and Christian in terms of abuse, their relationship, what they hope their mother will do, and how they have both left their own home.  And most of all, I liked how the one word felt more consistent with Jace’s voice.

SPOILERS, BEWARE 2. Jace is one of the most powerful male characters I have ever read in a YA novel. He’s taken a tremendous amount of abuse and then almost begs his girlfriend Lauren to report him after he physically hurts her. Clearly, he crossed a line. Does his actions make him an abuser? Is he on the same level as his father? What is important for readers to know?

As a society, I think we tend to paint abusers as “bad” and then wash our hands of them.  But, I think that this approach has some serious consequences.  First, I think that we don’t actually prevent further violence this way.  The victim may, thank goodness, go on and live a better life.  But in the meantime, the abuser is moving on to his/her next victim.  Second, I think that the abusers tend to get worse and worse.  Which is frightening.

I think of abuse as a spectrum — born of the same impulses, but different in degree.  Jace has the same impulses as his father and yes, he is an abuser, but his actions are very different in degree.

Jace does not demonstrate a lot of the controlling features that most abusers typically do:  he didn’t isolate Lauren from her friends, didn’t insult her, didn’t slowly erode her barriers about what was and wasn’t acceptable.  Most importantly, Jace blames himself for his actions — he takes responsibility for what he has done emotionally.   Which gives me hope for him.  He’s an abuser, to borrow a term from addiction rhetoric, but a recovering abuser.

SPOILERS BEWARE 3. Jace goes through tremendous growth, yet even in the end we’re unsure where his life ends up. If you could continue his story, where do you think he’d be today? What kind of person would he be?

I love this question.  Thanks for asking it.

In my view, Jace finishes high school, never dating Dakota, and goes to Stanford (something that was a strong dream of his all they way through draft 5).  Every holiday, he returns to his home in Albuquerque with Christian and Mirriam.  Each year he and Christian meet up in Somewhere, USA  to run a Destination Marathon together, step for step.  In his senior year of college, he brings a girlfriend home with him to join them in their ritual Thanksgiving dinner  (half mushroom, half pepperoni pizza), having never raised his fists to any woman or anyone again.

In my view, that Jace knows he has to work everyday to control his temper is what keeps his fists down.

SPOILERS BEWARE 4. In SPLIT no one reports the abuse. What’s your advice to readers if they find themselves in a similar situation to Jace and Christian?

First and foremost, get safe.  Whatever that means and whatever it takes.  I do believe that Orders of Protection/Restraining Orders are surprisingly effective. There are some very good organizations out there to help.  To find one in your area, call 800 799-SAFE (TTY: 800-787-3224) or go to www.ncadv.org.  For dating violence, try: 866- 361-9474 (TTY: 866-361-8474).  But do call or click from a safe phone or computer (Remember that computer histories can be tracked, so the library can be good for that.)

Beyond that, I tend to focus on is putting the power back into the victim’s hands.  I think part of recovery is learning to trust yourself again and learning to make decisions about what is best for you.  So, I’m not one to give advice in these situations.  Instead, I’m one to listen and support whatever decision feels right to the victim.

5. Toward the end of SPLIT Jace comes clean about his past to Dakota, a girl he’s hoping to get more involved with. Why do you feel it was important for him to be honest with her, to take the risk of losing her by sharing his history?

It was an important move narratively.  Since abuse is so frequently enabled through silence, his confession was about speaking.  More specifically, Jace does need to stop all controlling behavior, if he has a chance at becoming someone other than his father.  And so, his confession to Dakota was about relinquishing that control; it was about the ability to be vulnerable and leave the decision in her hands.

To learn more about Swati, please go to her website: http://swatiavasthi.blogspot.com/

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