Published by Merit Press on December 16th 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.
This book was inspired by some true events. In particular, one guy, The Pied Piper of Tucson. I obviously had to look it up, because of general morbid curiosity. The true story is straight up disturbing, but the real life killer is dead, so there’s some small comfort. The book definitely has similarities, and I would likely read the book before the real life story, but Half in Love with Death definitely has its own story.
The book is set in 1960s Tucson, Arizona and follows Caroline, who almost immediately has to deal with the aftermath of her sister’s disappearance. Caroline is fifteen, and she’s naive as hell- but an appropriate level of naivety, for her age and the time period. When Jess goes missing, Caroline’s family pretty much shatters, which you’d expect, and Caroline had basically no support system, and was sure she could locate Jess on her own. Since pretty much zero people are paying attention to her, and Tony, Jess’s boyfriend and town bad boy is, she latches onto him.
There are some aspects of this that worked quite well within the story. Let’s discuss those!
- Caroline’s inexperience and isolation made her decisions seem a bit more logical. Obviously, you and I aren’t going to buddy up with some (much older) guy who was definitely one of the last people to see your sister. But Caroline wanted her sister back, she wanted her life to go back to normal, and she couldn’t exactly rely on her useless parents. So when Tony promises to know where Jess is, and says he has proof, she listens.
- Tony is a red flag for adults, but definitely enticing to a young woman. Look, I don’t care if Tony was a boy scout who spent his Saturdays helping little old ladies cross the street, he would not be spending time with my daughter with that kind of age difference. But remember that Caroline’s parents barely care. Oh, they will tell her not to, of course. But what teen is going to take that seriously while under infatuation? No, Caroline was excited and swoony that an attractive older boy was into her. Plus, seeing how her parents handled this situation, I am pretty sure they didn’t spend a lot of time teaching her a ton of life lessons anyway.
- The historical period was a fabulous backdrop. Clearly, this kind of thing would be less likely to happen today for so many reasons. I don’t mean the missing sister and such, but it would be easier to track someone, electronically. It would also have been easier to keep tabs on Caroline. The time period worked from a logistical perspective, but also when it came to accepting Caroline’s decision making. I don’t know all the things about the 1960s, but my mom grew up in them, and I don’t really think that security was too high on anyone’s radar. I don’t think that the time period itself was innocent, but I do think that children were more uninformed, whether it was deliberate or not.
Of course, there were some things that didn’t work for me as well.
- These. Parents. Seriously, what the hell? I don’t understand how they could be so worried about nonsense (like sleeping with the neighbor, perhaps?) while all of this is going on. I mean, there were two children still in the house who needed them, and one who was missing and definitely needed them on their A game. And they weren’t. They were letting each of their kids down at pretty much every turn.
- There were some parts that I found to be predictable. Not the whole story, and for spoiler purposes I won’t tell you which things were, but some things were perhaps supposed to be shocking to me and weren’t? At least, that was how it seemed.
- As much as I understood why Caroline was behaving immaturely, I couldn’t quite connect to her or her mindset. I don’t know, I didn’t find her very likable, I guess. Part of it is probably because I wanted to yell at her a lot, but part of it was just that I don’t think I ever got a deep enough look at what made her tick. She didn’t really have a ton of depth as a character beyond the mystery of her sister and some issues with boys and friends. Who, speaking of, I also didn’t really care much about. They all seemed a bit flat to me.
Bottom Line: If history and mystery are your thing, this could work! I liked the story itself, and the writing was lovely, but I had a lot of trouble connecting to Caroline and didn’t really care about most of the side characters.
So, I won a signed ARC of this book, and then the lovely publisher sent me one! So, I do not need two of the same book of course, and one shall be one of yours! I am going to give away the hardcover, finished copy to one of you. US only, because postage is expensive, sorry!