All Hail the Persuasively Male Protagonist: SPLIT by Swati Avasthi

In the female-dominated world of YA, it’s crucial to recognize awesome books featuring male protagonists–especially when female authors have pulled off the work of imaginatively entering the inner world of the teen male.

I grabbed Split (by Swati Avasthi) on an impulse and didn’t have many specific expectations, but halfway through, I was reading the author’s bio. Avasthi, a woman, writes persuasively from a male perspective, something I admire extra much because I worked hard at it for The Knife and the Butterfly. Here’s the scoop, cribbed from the Goodreads listing:

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. First-time 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.

 The plotting of Split is excellent, with each thread of the story propelling the action forward. There’s a count-down dimension that ups the tension considerably. The book has a wildly upbeat ending for a book about domestic violence, but it’s an ending that is earned by the protag’s incremental growth through the course of the novel.

This is a great recommendation for fans of Chris Crutcher–the voice of the novel reminded me of Whale Talk. Readers who’ve loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower might also connect well to the narrator.


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