Published by Penguin on January 26th 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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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.
This book is almost impossible to rate. Take my 3-teacup rating lightly, because it does not even begin to sum up everything I felt about this different, imaginative, weird romance.
I call it a “romance” out of the human need to categorize, but it truly doesn’t sit well in any genre. It has paranormal and sci-fi elements, as well as what feels like touches of magical realism – all blended together around a complex love story with diverse characters.
Let me emphasize that once more – The Love That Split the World is a book rich with diversity, feminism, sex-positivism and just good old beautiful writing. The author chooses her words carefully, painting a gorgeous and vivid picture of both the Kentucky setting and this delicate time in Natalie Cleary’s life.
Brimming with Native American stories, culture and mythology, the book whizzes along with a magical energy. It is full of many short stories (and through them – life lessons) told by the mysterious “Grandmother” who sometimes visits Natalie at night.
Who is Grandmother? A Native American messenger? A religious apparition? Or merely a figment of Natalie’s imagination? Only time will tell.
Natalie is a particularly likable and wise character; she is quick to point out slut-shaming and refuses to see her ex’s new girlfriend as her enemy or, indeed, anything other than a human being. On top of this, her mental state plays a large part in this book, asking a question I have personally always loved – supernatural or psychological?
Fantasy and psychology live side by side here, prompting the reader to constantly wonder just what is real and what is imagined.
Given my 3-star rating, you’ve probably been waiting for it and here it is – the BUT. Well… this book might be a great many things, but it is first and foremost a romance and relies on your attachment to said romance to effectively tell the story. And it breaks my first two rules of writing romance novels.
1) Instalove. Like wow, bang, whoosh, I just met you and this is crazy, but let me talk about your beautiful eyelashes kind of instalove. Romances where emotions are plucked out of midair and built upon gorgeous looks just leave me feeling so cold.
2) You so pretty. Sentences that become paragraphs that become pages about how Beau is a physical work of art.
“His biceps are roughly the size of my head, and his eyes look like summer incarnate, and he has two little dark freckles on the side of his nose, and a mouth that somehow manages to look like a shy kid’s one minute and a virile Greek god’s the next.”
*snores* I just don’t care that much about beautiful people. And I especially don’t need to be reminded over and over again how good-looking they are.
If you can look past the instalove and eye roll-worthy romance moments, then this really is a beautiful book. Unfortunately, so much rests on the romance that it’s quite hard to do.