The Love That Split the World – Emily Henry – Razorbill – Published 26 January 2016
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
Ahhhh. That ending. Perfect, yet… Arhhhh. Read it. It is so worth reading. Clever, frustrating, sad and charming, The Love That Split the World is an epic story.
It is Natalie Cleary’s last summer in her home town of Union, Kentucky, before she leaves for college. She can’t help but reflect on her friendships, her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and the way she has withdrawn from her life-as-it-used-to-be over the last three years. Natalie is accustomed to being different, both because she is the only Native American in the town and because throughout her childhood she saw and spoke to people no one else could see. It was the sudden absence of these people, particularly the loveable ‘Grandmother’, that changed her life. But when Nat once again starts to see things that ‘aren’t there’ and Grandmother returns to issue a warning “You have three months to save him”, things get complicated, fast, especially when she meets the gorgeous and mysterious Beau who seems to exist as if in another world.
From the first page this book is a story that is shrouded in mystery. I wanted to keep reading to find out what was going on and where the story might be headed. I was a little (and sometimes a lot) confused, intrigued and even a little skeptical. I had read a number of reviews which spouted the fabulousness of this book and I wasn’t sure if it would live up to expectations. In some ways (read: the ending) it totally exceeded all expectations, in fact I was surprised by the clever way this story is woven together. It really is brilliant. However, I didn’t love the majority of this book. I enjoyed it and was certainly engaged, but it wasn’t an uplifting book for me. This book has an overall melancholic feeling. Perhaps it’s the looming sense of doom or maybe Natalie’s sense of the end of her life as she knows it (with her friends, the end of high school, the end of her living in Union, or even the end of her world). The epic-ness of the end of the book does make up for this though, and the deep reflectiveness suited the story.
Natalie has a dry wit that makes her an irresistible narrator and protagonist. Beau is pretty good at keeping up with her quips, but his presence brings a harsher, reflective side to the story. This is not a cutesy romance. In fact, there is nothing cutesy about this book at all. Beau and Natalie have some pretty intense chemistry, but their relationship never feels rushed. In fact, they kind of oscillate between deeply attracted and desperately trying to push each other away/pull each other closer. There is a love triangle of sorts in that Natalie’s ex-boyfriend plays a large role in the story. At first I wasn’t quite sure which boy she was meant to end up with and which, or if, one of them was the unknown ‘him’ she is meant to save. I had my favourite and was pleased when it became clear which boy has her heart.
While this is a love story (a pretty epic, world-splitting love at that) it is also a story about family, finding one’s self in the world, belonging, friendship and the endless possibilities that spark from every little action or decision one makes. While the pace of the first half of this book seemed pretty slow, there was never any lack of things happening, and by the time I hit the last hundred pages I was unable to put the book down and I just kept getting blown away by the way the story interconnects and loops back on itself (and I was very quickly running out of pages!).
This really was a very clever story and completely engaging for that fact alone, let alone the added bonus of a rather epic love story, strong heroine and great underpinning messages of belonging, self-belief and finding your (right) place in the world.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Time travel. Alternative worlds. Native American history. Belonging. Romance. Dating and relationships. Family. Friendship. Love. Heritage. Self-belief.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f*** (2), s***, sl** (1). Drug and alcohol references. Violence, fights with minimal details. References to violent car crashes. Mild, infrequent sexual references, no details or crude references.
Published: 26 January 2016 by Razorbill.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.