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He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My… Y’Know.

Mandy discovers the perils of crushing on a MLD in Swati Avasthi's Split.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My… Y’Know.

BOOK REPORT for Split by Swati Avasthi

Cover Story: Split Identities
BFF Charm: LOV -- Oh. Just Yay Then.
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Right On, with a Side of Flashbacks
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude, Brothers
Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: It's Complicated

Cover Story: Split Identities

(Oh YES Y'ALL, I went there. I'll try to refrain from further puns. Maybe.)

So this is the cover that I actually have:

It's a bit emo and there's a cryptic, angst-y tagline, but it's fairly inoffensive.

BUT I couldn't find any high-res versions of this image (and I feel very strongly about these things, you guys), so I used the one way up top instead. I was meh about it until I realized it was an optical illusion!

The Deal:

Jace has just driven nineteen hours from Chicago to Albuquerque. Having been kicked out of the house by an abusive father, he seeks refuge with his estranged brother Christian.

As Jace tries to start a new life, his old one keeps re-emerging: his ex won't stop contacting him, and worse, his mom's still trapped with jerkhole dad. But the only way Jace will be able to move forward may be to go back.

BFF Charm: LOV -- Oh. Just Yay Then.

Jace is a smartass hot nerd soccer star photography afficiando, so obvs he's a candidate for the newly-minted love charm. But he's reticent about the past, to the extent of flat-out lying about it. And I should have taken his bastard-no-longer pledge more seriously, rather than chalking it up to the amusing antics of a charming wiseass.

Against better judgement, I'm still super attracted to him (so thanks for the disturbing self-revelation, Jace). But he could use more healthy platonic female relationships, like the one with Christian's girlfriend Mirriam. So for both our sakes, I'll semi-begrudgingly settle for being Jace's best chick friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

To paraphrase the poet laureate of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, ladies love cool Jace. There's Lauren, the ex in Chicago who has unresolved feelings for him. And when he lands in the ABQ, Jace instantly piques the interest of both popular girl Caitlyn and bookstore employee Dakota. The swoony moments are used sparingly (and DAMN do they ever bring le hotness), but all these romantic entanglements are secondary to Jace's relationship with his brother.

Talky Talk: Right On, with a Side of Flashbacks

Jace's voice feels pretty authentic (and I'm not just saying that 'cause I want a real-life, well-adjusted, grownup version of him to exist). Obvs, this book isn't a chucklefest, but there's still an appropriate amount of levity, and I never found Jace to be excessively broody.

I'm always wary whenever the past is integral to a story. When done poorly, that sort of thing reminds me of the Halloween episode of Modern Family: "What is so awful that you simultaneously can’t speak of it and can’t stop talking about it?" Or like that show The Event, where apparently everyone would talk about The Event without ever mentioning the specifics of The Event? Fortunately, Avasthi knows how to reveal the past in a way and at a pace that builds intrigue, rather than impatience and annoyance.

With all that being said, this book may have broken me a little. The subject matter is partly to blame, but Swati Avasthi is ace at putting my heart through the wringer:

[...] I sound like a victim. "I'm not defending what he's done or anything. I just don't want you to think of him like that."

"Like what?"

"He doesn't have horns or anything."

"Jace." Her voice has gone soft and sympathetic.

Pity. Just what I need.

"It's all right to miss him," she says.

"Yeah, right. What's to miss? The name-calling, the heavy hitting?"

[...]

It's not really all right, is it? I mean, who would miss that bastard? Shouldn't I hate him, just simple, pure hatred? Shouldn't I write him a thank-you note for getting me out of there, for not wanting me around anymore?

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

A runaway with a secretive past? Yeah, Jace is def. a MLD.

Bonus Factor: Brothers

After a shared childhood hell and five years apart, Jace and Christian's relationship is fragile (to say the least). As they become reacquainted, it's clear that their fraternal devotion to each other remains intact and true. They also provide a dichotomy of the effects of an abusive upbringing. Who needs swoon when there's this beautiful and complex bond between bros?

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting

It feels like a disservice to Patty by bestowing this dishonour upon Jace and Christian's dad, Walter. At least she isn't an abhorrently manipulative monster that beats her spouse and kids.

Casting Call:

I did the casting back when I wanted to make out with Jace, and it stuck. But I'm gonna need the hot tub time machine for this one. (And restraint from casting myself as Mirriam.)

Young blond Taylor Kitsch as Jace

Younger Henry Cavill as Christian

Sean Bean as Walter

Relationship Status: It's Complicated

I fell fast and fell hard for this book; it captivated me, and I just couldn't get enough. It actually reminds me of another book I recently met, except I was already in too deep when I realized what I got myself into. As much as I wish I could kiss this book's trubs away, I'm not sure I can handle its baggage. I know we're not forever, but I'm still not ready for us to break up.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: A resident of Edmonton, AB, Mandy dreams of opening a bakery with Peeta Mellark. She apologizes for any terrible puns that she has surely made.
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