Friday, November 20, 2015

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

Half in Love with Death
by Emily Ross
Young adult
Mystery / Thriller

Reviewed by Lisa Haselton

Teenage 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.

It’s 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.

Caroline’s 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.

Ross 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?

It’s 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.

Emily Ross’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in Boston magazine, The Smoking Poet, 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 website.

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 kind.)

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