"The envelope says 4B. Even though 4B is labeled MARSHALL, I press the button, and the buzz echoes in the tiny foyer. Answer. Be home and answer.
"Outside, a FedEx truck roars, pauses, and roars again. Its white profile steals away, leaving only a gasp of gray exhaust. A shrunken man drags the door open and holds it for his shrunken wife. Before they even step over the threshold, they see me and stop.
"I am quite the picture. The split lip isn't the only relandscaping my father has done. A purple mountain is rising on my jaw, and a red canyon cuts across my forehead.
"They stare at me, and I suck in my lip, hiding what I can.
"At the moment, a distorted voice comes through the speaker: 'Who is it?'
"Can I really have this conversation over a speaker? Remember me? The brother you left behind? Well, I've caught up. Even in my imagination, I stop here. I leave out the rest.
"'Um,' I say, 'FedEx.'
"The couple unfreezes. The man grasps his wife's elbow, tugs her outside, shoves the door closed, and helps her hobble away. Great way to start my Albuquerque tenure; scaring the locals."
Sixteen year-old Jace Witherspoon will be changing his last name to MARSHALL, and creating himself a new identity just like his big brother Christian did. Five years ago, toward the end of his high school years, Christian disappeared from home and school and Jace has not seen or heard from him since.
At a young age, big brother Christian learned how to antagonize their father, a conservative Chicago judge, so that dad's attention would be deflected, causing him to beat up Christian instead of their mother. By time Christian left home, he had suffered a series of broken fingers, concussions, and even had some skin grafted on his arm where their dad had held it to an electric burner. On a regular basis, their father diffused any potential suspicion by moving the family to a different Chicago neighborhood.
After Christian left, Jace had taken over that role of trying to protect their mom from the beatings. But now that Jace has finally broken, he hasn't snuck away like Christian. He's finally swung first before getting himself beaten to a pulp and literally thrown out of the house. Now that she has no protectors left, Jace is determined to somehow get their mom to follow him to Albuquerque before their dad kills her.
Jace arrives at his big brother's house with little more than the envelope with Christian's address that Mom snuck him on his way out.
But that is all what was.
SPLIT is the story of the aftermath -- what will be -- the lasting impact upon these two brothers with rather different temperaments of growing up in that household. It is the tale of how Christian has in so many ways been avoiding his past and how -- five years later -- Jace's unexpected arrival at his doorstep threatens to unravel the new identity Christian has painstakingly built for himself.
How does a guy have a "normal" relationship after growing up watching his mother regularly being kicked, punched, and worse? Christian is in a long-term relationship with a woman who is completely different than their mother, but he has set it up so that he and Mirriam -- who is unaware of his past -- have rented adjoining apartments rather than sharing one.
And now, as Jace attempts to create his own new identity -- high school, bookstore job, soccer team, girls --and leave his nightmarish upbringing behind, no one in Albuquerque including his brother Christian is aware of the dark secret that Jace is harboring.
"Now in Christian's apartment, I close my eyes and try to stop the memory, as if I could stop the blister in my brain from bursting, now that I have pricked it."
SPLIT, by first-time author Swati Avasthi, is an exceptionally smart and incredibly intense read. It is one of those real must-have stories for high school kids about what it is to grow up to be a man.