A shocking thing has happened to me. It has taken me completely by surprise and I don’t know what it all means.
The shocking thing is this: I read a book which was primarily concerned with romance and I did not hate it or vomit in my mouth. I KNOW. This is big news. The book in question is The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry, which I’ve had my eye on for ages and finally got round to reading a few weeks ago.
What is The Love That Split the World about, I hear you cry. Well, dear reader, yours is a question with many answers. It is definitely about Natalie, who has just graduated from high school and is counting down the days till her big move to college. It is also about the fact that Natalie is adopted and comes from Native American heritage. It is also quite deeply concerned with the fact that Natalie is visited by Grandmother, who, confusingly, is neither real nor actually her grandmother, but who tells her stories from her Native American culture and issues warnings like “someone is going to die” before disappearing. Natalie sees weird things that she can’t explain. If you’re keeping up, you should also know that this book is about Natalie’s relationship with her ex and burgeoning connection with Beau, a mysterious stranger with really nice arms. Really, this book is about Beau’s arms.
That’s not even all of it. The Love That Split the World is about identity, family, love, independence, alcoholism and psychology. It is part-romance, part-fantasy, part-scifi, in a feat of genre-bending for which Emily Henry should win a prize. Aside from anything else, it’s beautifully written; Natalie is an intelligent narrator but not an unrealistically self-aware one, which makes her all the more compelling. As she struggles to understand what is happening to her, what she has to do and how in the world she can do it, Natalie never becomes annoyingly whingey. Henry avoids many of the cliches which annoy me in YA; Natalie has nice parents who care what she does, nobody masters any magical powers ridiculously quickly or complains about how hard it is to do so. I’m not entirely sure I understood all the scientific/mystical explanations but, then again, neither did Natalie, so I felt like this was acceptable.
As for the romance, this is usually the aspect of a book which I find the least interesting, but, while reading The Love That Split the World, I surprised myself with how much I was rooting for everything to work out. There’s an element of insta-love, with a disproportionate amount of people being shoved up against things in order for kissing to happen, but this is all fine, because Henry makes you genuinely care about Natalie and everything that happens to and around her. I found myself experiencing some long-buried feelings (eugh, feelings) towards the end and getting a bit stressed about what was going to happen.
I really liked The Love That Split the World; it is an intelligent and thought-provoking book with enough reality to keep it grounded and enough fantasy to give it a sense of escapism. I’ve seen it compared to The Time Traveler’s Wife, which, coincidentally, is probably the last book which gave me feelings of this kind. You’ll care about the characters, as well as spend the rest of your week wondering if you’re actually in a parallel dimension.