- Print Length: 224 pages
- Publisher: Merit Press (November 6, 2015)
- Publication Date: November 6, 2015
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 street culture of 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, in a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.
Buy, read, and discuss Half in Love with Death
Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. Find out more at emilyrosswrites.com or follow her on Twitter @emilyross816.
HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH was inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’
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I’ve always believed that the stories in the YA / NA classification are some of the most provocative new stories being published, as well as being a great source of strong female characters. Emily Ross’s latest novel, Half in Love with Death only supported that belief.
In this novel, Ross has blended a typical teen’s coming of age story – first love, first kisses, being in the shadow of her prettier, more popular older sister – with a darker story – one that involves that older sister disappearing, ostensibly to chase her dreams in California…but it that really true? Because woven into the novel is a mystery. Tony, the sister’s boyfriend may not be what he seems, and other young people seem to know more than they should.
In her protagonist, Caroline, Ross has given us a very real girl. She’s fifteen, bright, observant, and a little bit innocent. Her sister Jess, who disappears very early in the novel, is more experienced, possibly more street-wise, definitely less book-smart. We don’t see a lot of Jess, but she struck me as being a fair representative of most upper-middle-class kids of the 60s (or any decade) – straining against parental control, even when that control might be providing the structure she very much needs.
Caroline, from whose perspective we witness everything that happens, was also incredibly dimensional. She covers for her sister out of misguided loyalty and sibling fear (“I’ll kill you if you tell!”), then starts hanging out with her sister’s ex, Tony, who was always nice to the tag-along sister. She’s smart, but she’s also naive, and it was sort of refreshing reading about a fifteen-year-old girl who is still a GIRL, and makes decisions that come out of her girlhood, rather than a too-wise-for-her-years womanhood.
Tony was both deliciously suave and delightfully creepy – I could see how teenaged girls would fall for him, ignoring that little warning that screams “not a good choice.” And Billy from across the street was both a great friend, and a well-written character. We never really get resolution: Do Billy and Caroline end up dating, or remain neighbors and friends – and that’s okay, because they work really well either way, and maybe to define that would be to diminish both characters.
My favorite part of this novel wasn’t a scene or a line of dialogue, though. It was that the protagonist, Caroline, essentially saves herself, something we don’t see enough of in any genre of writing.
I recommend this book to readers of all ages (13 and up, anyway).
Goes well with: Grilled chicken and corn on the cob.