Review of Emily Ross’s YA mystery Half in Love with Death

Half in Love with Death
Emily Ross
/ Thriller
by Lisa Haselton
sisters. An older boy. Parents who “just don’t listen.” The drama and angst are
a natural part of 15-year-old Caroline’s world, but she never imagined her
older sister, Jess, would simply disappear from her life; and after an argument
with harsh words, too.
late summer in the mid-1960s and Caroline pines for her sister’s boyfriend and
looks forward to going along with them on their dates. It’s not the best of relationships
no matter how you look at it, but it works for her and she loves her sister
Jess a lot. Lying isn’t comfortable for Caroline, but she’ll do it for Jess,
especially when it involves Jess’s boyfriend. But one night Jess sneaks out –
and never comes back. Frustrated when the police and her parents aren’t giving
her any answers, Caroline keeps moving forward with the search as best she can.
viewpoint works so well in this story. She’s quite observant and questions the
adults’ comments and rationales that don’t make sense to her. She’s shunned off
by some adults, ignored by others, and is frustrated that people are giving up
on getting answers. She encounters so many twists and turns, yet stays doggedly
determined to find out what happened to Jess. Her focus is so sharp and narrow,
however, that she starts to lose sight of what’s real.
has a cast of teenage characters that pulled me back into memories of myself at
that stage in life. There are the girl friends and guy friends who go from
being trustworthy to avoidable because they can’t keep secrets any more. There
are parents who are in their own worlds and trying to keep themselves happy and
who have moments of seemingly listening to their children, but not really. Why
can’t anyone just tell the truth, anymore?
the main character, Caroline, respects adults and her own gut. When the two are
in conflict, she works through it and decides what she feels is ‘right’. She’s
not a teen who feels entitled to certain things, although she does have some
typical traits of a middle child. She realizes there will be consequences to
actions – is still at an age where she can’t forsee many outcomes – but doesn’t
let her lack of knowledge keep her from at least trying to find answers to
questions no one wants to answer.
Ross’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in Boston magazine, The Smoking
, and Menda City Review. She
was nominated for a St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, and Half in Love with Death received a 2014
Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction.
I quite
enjoyed reading Half in Love with Death
for its story, but also relatable real-to-life young characters. Caroline has a lot of heart and a
great head on her shoulders. Seeing her growth from the start of the book to
the end is heartwarming. I consider this a highly recommended, pleasurable YA thriller.
I think it’s the first I’ve read in this genre in the YA category.
If you’re interested in learning more about Emily, visit her
You can read my Nov 3rd interview with her here.
ISBN: 978-1-4405-8903-4
Publisher: Merit Press

(I received an ARC of this book with no promise of a review of any

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