From School Library Journal
Grade 11 Up—After Jace Witherspoon is kicked out by his abusive father, he seeks refuge in Albuquerque with his older brother, whom he hasn't seen in six years. Their mother, also a victim of her husband's abuse, promises to leave him and join her children on Thanksgiving. Jace counts down the days while trying to start a new life and rebuild his relationship with Christian, but he's haunted by a terrible secret and the people he left behind. This gripping story is especially noteworthy because Jace is a victim who has also become an abuser: he hit his girlfriend during an argument the night he left Chicago. He is quick-tempered, proud, and charming, like his father. In contrast, Christian is more like their mother: restrained, deliberate, and humble. Their father's abuse has made Christian emotionally distant, but Jace's presence forces him to open up and confront his guilt about leaving his sibling behind. The brothers' growing relationship, as they turn to each other to escape from their father's shadow, is touching. Jace's narration is raw and intimate, dramatic and poetic; readers will feel his internal struggle keenly. The rest of the characters aren't as richly or skillfully drawn, however, and the plot occasionally lacks subtlety. The book contains graphic depictions of physical abuse, as well as adult language and underage drinking.—Erin Carrillo, formerly at Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL
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Frustration is the emotion most prevalent in this novel about escaping the ravages of domestic violence—if that is even possible. After trying to prevent his father from beating his mother further, 16-year-old Jace is kicked out of his Chicago home. He arrives, swollen and bloody, at the doorstep of his brother in Albuquerque. It’s been five years since 22-year-old Christian fled the violent home front himself, and the brothers’ reunion is defined by awkward negotiations of acceptance and suspicion. With ground rules set, Jace is allowed to stay and resume school, but the specter of their father continues to haunt them—as does the chilling uncertainty of what may be happening to their mother in their absence. Avasthi has a great ear for naturalistic dialogue, and although some interactions feel purposeful, they’re usually couched in convincing details. 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. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus