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The Love That Split the World Paperback – January 10, 2017
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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"Henry’s story captivates, both as a romance and as an imaginative rethinking of time and space. The relationship between Beau and Natalie sizzles while also reflecting the innocence of first love, and the unfolding mystery of their changing realities is enough to keep readers turning pages.... Henry delivers a story with depth, originality, and complexity." –Publishers Weekly
“This story pairs a gorgeous narrative with exceptional voice for a truly profound debut.” –Buzzfeed
“A time-bending suspense that’s contemplative and fresh, evocative and gripping.” –USA Today
“This time-traveling, magical, and beautifully written love story definitely deserves a spot on your bookshelf.” –Bustle
"An utterly gorgeous and touching tale of love, hope and sacrifice; this novel broke my heart and then stitched it back together just in time to break it all over again. You will emerge breathless, longing for even a glimpse of those rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky, and completely certain of the possibility of young love. I know I did." –Leslye Walton, author of the award-winning novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
“The Love That Split the World is a YA game changer. Every scene sizzles with emotional intensity, and Emily Henry’s pitch-perfect sentences will echo in my head for a long time to come.” –Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100
"With aching first love, stunning world-building and a supporting cast that beg for their own books, The Love That Split the World has everything a story needs to turn me into an obsessed reader, begging for more. I am absolutely in love!" –Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author
“The sweet, summertime mist of small-town Kentucky sets the perfect stage for this authentic, magical, and oh-so-swoony debut. An evocative exploration of first love, identity and the power of story! A must read.” –Wendy Wunder, author of The Probability of Miracles and The Museum of Intangible Things
"A well-written piece of magic realism about the price we pay for daring to love, and the price we pay if we don’t." –Booklist
“It’s got all the ingredients of a riveting read, like time travel and a mythology twist.” –EW.com
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Emily Henry is full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. She tweets @EmilyHenryWrite.
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Natalie and Beau, the major characters, both deal with high school problems: competitive grades, getting into college, participating in sports/school functions, breakups, and self-discovery and self-identity. Their love is never forced, and overall it’s purely spellbinding and heart-pounding. They both hold secrets, and luckily they are able to share a common secret involving their hometown of Union, Kentucky.
The whole book made me feel like I was cocooned in a glow of magic with intense, on-the-edge feelings. The Love That Split the World wraps you in a world of two extraordinary characters that have the ability to flip the world upside down and make the impossible work. When you go to read this book, prepare yourself for comforting stories told by a character named Grandmother and plot twists that will make your head spin (in a good way).
This is a story that will definitely make a reader contemplate identity. More importantly, it makes you think about your own life choices and what paths those choices can lead to.
Somewhere between now and then, I got the email from Goodreads alerting me that the book was on sale for something like $1.99, so I downloaded it to my Kindle. After reading something heavy, I thought a good paranormal YA love story would be a nice change of pace, so I started it.
And it wasn’t what I expected. Not that that’s entirely a bad thing.
The story begins with Natalie receiving a late-night visit from “Grandmother”—perhaps a spiritual entity or an imaginary friend who tells her stories. Grandmother hadn’t visited in a long time, perhaps because earlier in her life, Natalie underwent some psychotherapy because of nightmares. But Grandmother is back with an ominous warning: Natalie has three months to save him, and she should seek Alice Chan for assistance.
This is a wonderful starting point. There are clear stakes (three months to save someone!), and a clear mystery (who’s the him that needs to be saved?)—maybe even more than one mystery (who’s Alice Chan, why is she important, and how does Natalie find her?)—so I wanted to keep reading.
It’s the last few days of senior year, so throughout the book, Natalie is also dealing with some of the same issues that all high-schoolers are dealing with, most particularly finding her identity. She lives in small-town Kentucky, but she’s heading off to New England to attend Brown University in the fall, partially to figure herself out beyond her small town. She has just broken up with her boyfriend of three years, the school’s football hero Matt Kincaid, so she’s trying to navigate life without being part of a couple. And her family—younger twin siblings Jack and Coco, and her parents—are white, and she’s Native American, adopted by them when she was younger, so she doesn’t completely know her full heritage.
Grandmother’s stories are tales from a variety of Native Nations, and they provide clues to the mystery Natalie is trying to solve. But then Natalie finds Alice Chan, a psychology professor at a nearby university, and a diagnosis of repressed trauma eventually uncovers theories of alternate universes and timelines. Concurrently, Natalie meets the hunky Beau Wilkes—perhaps the famed “band room ghost”—who has an uncanny ability to travel between universes and through time.
And here’s where the book doesn’t work as well for me. There’s a lot of telling in the book instead of showing; Grandmother tells these stories, Alice tells her theories. They’re interesting, but there are many passages of Natalie just listening and absorbing where not much else happens. Also, the juxtaposition of the nature and spirituality of Grandmother’s tales with Alice’s scientific explanations don’t mesh well, and it’s never fully explained why Beau—and ultimately Natalie—are able to do what they do. It’s not that I need an explanation, as I’m often willing to suspend my disbelief in a YA contemporary fantasy, but having so many possible explanations muddles the story a little.
Eventually, we learn which him needs to be saved, and it’s a doozy! I loved the revelation, and I really loved the revelation of who Grandmother is, but when Natalie learns what she would have to do (and why) to save him, I was shocked. And in retrospect, I’m disappointed.
The book is strongest when Natalie is on her journey to find her singular identity. She struggles to make a full break from Matt, sometimes getting pulled back to him, even when he does some terrible things. She struggles with her adoptive family’s tradition as she’s trying to solve the clues. She questions her decision to go to Brown, especially since she’s just met Beau and enters into an instalove relationship with him. All these aspects of the book and Natalie as a character are realized exceptionally well.
But the ending goes against all that. It’s not about finding oneself, and that’s why—despite the book’s strengths—I can’t rate this too high. This disparity splits the world of the book and my love for it, so The Love That Split the World receives THREE AND A HALF STARS.