Half in Love with Death
Author: Emily Ross
Publication Date: December 18th, 2015
Publisher: Merit Press
Synopsis: It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.
Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.
Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, Half in Love with Death is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.
Based in the 1960’s, Emily Ross’s novel Half in Love with Death deals with one family’s nightmare of having their daughter and sister go missing. Jess, the older sister of Caroline, spends her nights out with her friends and boyfriend, Tony. Tony is the neighborhood “bad boy,” and Jess is often required to take Caroline along with them when they go out, to make sure nothing happens between them.
On one particular night, Jess and Tony are supposed to go to the drive-in, and Caroline is going to be accompanying them. Caroline gets along just fine with Tony, and tends to give the two of them space anyway, so Jess doesn’t normally mind when she goes along. However, on this night, Jess is adamant that she go without Caroline. After an argument with their father on the matter, Jess is told that she cannot go at all, so she runs up to her room. When Caroline goes up to check on her, she finds that Jess is getting ready to leave through the bedroom window. When Caroline asks her where she is going and what she is planning on doing, Jess just explains to her that she absolutely has to go, because there is something serious going on. Before she leaves, she speaks two words to Caroline – “Would you,” but then trails off and tells Caroline to forget about it. Those were the last words that Jess speaks to Caroline before she leaves.
When Jess doesn’t come back the next morning, as she usually does, Caroline keeps trying to cover for her sister by lying for her, but eventually she has to come clean and tell her parents and the police that Jess had disappeared and not come home.
Heartbroken, the family tries to figure out where Jess might have gone. Their first idea is that perhaps she went to California – she wanted to be an actress, and might have run off to start her acting career. But as Caroline befriends Jess’s boyfriend Tony, and her friends, she starts to uncover some unsettling secrets as to what might have happened to Jess.
This book was categorized as a psychological thriller, and I’ll give it that – it definitely is a bit of a psychological thrill ride for the young adult audience. However, it didn’t seem of as much of a thriller as I had hoped – at least not until the last few chapters, when readers could really piece together what is going on in the story. At that point, it becomes quite the story. A lot of the story is based upon pieces of information that Caroline gathers from her friends and friends of Jess, and it was mostly gathered in a “he said, she said” kind of way. Everyone seemed to have different stories to tell, and when things start to not add up, you start to hope Caroline gets herself away from the situation (and yet at the same time you can understand why she’s still dealing with these people – she’s desperate to find her sister, and her parents don’t seem to be doing a good enough job in her eyes).
Some of the characters were a bit hard to connect to, but they were all different and interesting, and it made for a great read. I finished this one pretty quickly, because I really wanted to see what happened, and if they would find Jess. It was a fun read if you’re looking for something a little bit different!
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Emily Ross’s YA mystery/thriller HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH is forthcoming from Merit Press(12/2015). She received a 2014 MCC Artist Fellowship finalist award for fiction, and is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. When not writing she works as a web developer and is the mother of two millennials. Find out more at http://www.emilyrosswrites.com/ or https://twitter.com/emilyross816.