SplitSpring 2010 Fiction
When Jace arrives in Albuquerque seeking refuge with his brother Christian, he expects some kind of brotherly welcome, or at least concern; of all people, Christian should know how Jace got his bruised and beaten face. But Christian is oddly cold. He seems to resent Jace's presence and forbids all personal questions. Christian's serious girlfriend, Mirriam, didn't even know he had a brother until Jace showed up on the doorstep. Jace tries to hold his new life together. He goes to school, plays soccer, holds down a bookstore job to contribute to the rent, and continues to hope that their mother will escape from their father in time for Thanksgiving. He abides by Christian's rules (mostly). But Jace isn't sure how much longer he can control his anger at his mother's passivity, his father's abuse, and Christian's estrangement; losing control would jeopardize his already fragile new life.
Swati Avasthi's new novel is, on one hand, nothing new; a teenager must come to terms with the issue of abuse and face its ramifications in order to move toward healing. But the author moves beyond the predictable pattern. Avasthi's smart and funny narrator has read a few problem novels himself, enough to poke fun at them and to be seriously annoyed when Christian's do-gooder girlfriend, in an effort to let him know that he is not alone, leaves pages of not-so-helpful abuse statistics on the kitchen table for Jace to find. Teen readers will appreciate this "problem novel," not only for the problem itself, but perhaps more for the smart character development and the wry narrative tone.