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Half in Love with Death

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  263 ratings  ·  92 reviews
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 ...more
Published December 16th 2015 by Merit Press (first published November 6th 2015)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  263 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Start your review of Half in Love with Death
“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

----J.K. Rowling

Emily Ross, an award-winning American author, pens her debut YA novel, Half in Love with Death that weaves the story of a young fifteen year old girl set in the summer of 1960s when her older sister goes missing without a hint, who then sets out on a journey to find her sister and make herself visible in front of her parents, who doesn't value her presence in their home. Along with the boyfriend, whom she is f
Crina (Reading Addict)
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it

I remember that after I finished this book, I kind of had mixed feelings about it, especially because towards the end things went completely in a different direction than the one I was expecting. And I didn't knew what to feel. But now, that some weeks have passed, I think that I'm more detached and I can be more objective.

I enjoyed the book, most of it and for me it was more like a contemporary with a mystery element, more than a mystery as a whole. Because the sisster
Michelle Hoover
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a thriller with real heart. Despite being based on the case of a real-life serial killer in Tuscan, the story itself is rooted in a young woman's attempts to save her missing sister and heal her fractured family. The voice of the novel just sings. It will have your gripped and aching at the same time. The novel is pitched toward YA readers, but I think both YA and adult readers will eat this one up. ...more
Pamela Loring
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the moment I opened this book, I did not want to put it down. I was completely immersed in Caroline's story, and how her desire to find her missing sister leads her deeper into dangerous territory and more desperate to believe the unbelievable. This is the kind of book every mother should give her teenage daughter (or anyone at any age) to read--if not for a fantastic, thoroughly enjoyable read, then as a lesson on how not to get caught up in a drama, and how men (and serial killers in part ...more
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
For the full version of this review as well as other reviews and features go to SleepsOnTables.

I’m going to let you in on a secret, I’m kind of minorly obsessed with the 1960s, primarily the types of stories that make history akin to a Charles Manson type story. There was such great almost subtle crime with the way the hive mind worked when people got together in that time. It was a time where teenagers left school and home to be hippies and the friends that they found because their new family.
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
This review was originally posted on It Starts at Midnight
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
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story of a young teen trying to heal her family by finding her missing older sister is still haunting my thoughts. Ross does an excellent job of recreating the suburban ennui of the sixties and the yearning for something more.

That yearning for excitement is personified by Jess, the eldest sibling, whose bad decisions ultimately lead to her disappearance and possible death. Her younger sister, Caroline feels guilty and decides it is her duty to find Jess and bring her home. Unfortunately, t
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Based on the same real-life "Pied Piper of Tucson" murder case that inspired Joyce Carol Oates's classic short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", Half in Love with Death is a dreamy yet taut and fast-paced exploration of adolescent longings, the lure of the bad boy, and the dark fascination of murder. Set in the 1960s and told in the first-person voice of an adolescent girl who is determined to find her sister, even as she's drawn to the troubled boy who may be responsible for he ...more
Kelly Ford
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read early versions of this novel and fell in love with both the story and Emily's writing. The characters and setting are written with such exquisite detail. You feel the Arizona heat, the crushing weight and pain of waiting for someone who has gone missing, and the hot thrill and danger of falling in love with a very, very, very bad boy. Technically under the YA category. But whether you're a teenager or an adult, y'all are gonna love it. ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For full review please go to:, Twitter @camartinez and Facebook "5 Girls Book Reviews"

REVIEW BY: Arianna, age 13 years, 1 month


This book had me fascinated until the very end!

My favorite character was Caroline because she would do anything to find her sister, even with a broken family and horrible friends she still tried. I admire her for her determination.

My favorite part was when I figured everything out at the end...
Cara Wood
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book's dark plot has consumed me for the past few days. I got very quickly swept up in Caroline's heart-rendering story of self-discovery and longing. This has all the great elements of a realistic, coming-of-age novel with the added bonus of some fabulous 1960's fashion and a gut-wrenching mystery. ...more
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Jennie
Cover Story: California Dreamin’
BFF Charm: Nope
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Bonus Factors: 1960s, Serial Killers
Relationship Status: What Is and What Should Never Be

Read the full book report here.
Apr 08, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Protagonist was excruciatingly stupid at times. It wore on me.
I despised every thing about this book. I don't think a book has annoyed me as much as this one has. Yeah I get that she's 15 and her sister is 17. I get that kids that age make bad decisions. I've been there and done that myself. We all need to make mistakes and learn so that we grow as a person..yadda..yadda..yadda. However when your so stupid that the chances of you ever getting to grow old and learn from your mistakes is slim, than we have a problem. Not only did one sister make the mistake, ...more
Maureen O'Leary
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding mystery but more than that a close study of a certain moment in young womanhood when you are leaving the last of innocence behind. This was evocative and beautifully written. A story of a young teenager enamored of her missing older sister's boyfriend who has an almost Manson-like allure over her and several other girls. This was definitely a page turner and I highly recommend. ...more
Kelly Gunderman
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Check out this and other reviews on my young adult book blog, Here's to Happy Endings!

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 particul
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, arc
**3.5/4 stars**

Originally posted at:

I’d seen Half in Love with Death around the book blogosphere quite a bit and when I got the opportunity to review Emily Ross’s debut, I jumped at the chance. However, when I got the book I didn’t read too closely and thought it was a retelling of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” It was only after I finished the book that I realised that it was actually inspired by ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’ To those of you, like me, who ha
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Dreamy, Haunting YA Thriller  
At the center of Emily Ross’s YA thriller HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH is Caroline. Caroline is the dreamy middle child, younger sister of brash Jess. And last night Jess snuck out the bedroom window. She has not come home.
The perfect choice for narrator, Caroline is the only character with access to everyone—their parents, Jess’s friends, and to Jess herself. And she’s a sweetie. New in town with few friends, she longs for white go-go boots, for the cool fashion of Co
Stephanie Ward
'Half in Love with Death' is a riveting suspense novel set in the 1960s. I'm not a big reader of YA contemporary fiction and even less so when it comes to historical books. After reading the description, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. I'm so glad that I took a chance with it! It was a lot better than I was expecting or even hoping it would be. The 1960s setting plays a decently large part in the book, but it wasn't overwhelming and didn't distract me from the real plot of the st ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I wish that I didn't read a little spoiler about the book. (Avoid this entire review and the synopsis if you don't want to know that spoiler. Just jump straight into the book.) If I didn't know the book is going to have a very huge turn into implied horror town, then I would probably be reading along with bliss. At least, that is until the terrible parts smack right into my face.

Caroline, after her sister has been declared missing b
Margo Kelly
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well-written mystery! Emily Ross did a terrific job of building the plot and developing the characters in this story set in the 1960s. Life was so different without the Internet and cell phone technology (but that was not the point of this story).

One thing that struck me throughout this story was that oftentimes teenagers don't trust adults enough to confide in them. Why is that? What are adults doing wrong in that realm? If you're an adult, it's something to ponder and ask yourself if the te
Mar 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Once you touch the spirits, they never let you go."

Pretty cover, but a slow storyline that felt too obvious. It took way to long for Caroline to catch up with what I felt was pretty obvious conclusion. The adults were the typical absentee adults but made even worse with their near nonexistent worry about their missing oldest child.

This one just wasn't for me.
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Based on a true story, Half in Love with Death paints a beautifully disturbing picture of a fairly typical 1960s family. Everything seems normal until one night it’s not. Entranced by a beautiful boy full of mysterious darkness and alluring poetry, Caroline not only gets wrapped up in her sister’s disappearance, but also the police’s prime suspect.

The juxtaposition of such a sweet, innocent, naive girl against the potential horrors of what happened to her sister is a theme that has been skillful
Stephanie Gayle
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A compelling story of a missing teen, and the younger sister determined to find her with help of the sister's charming and creepy boyfriend, Tony. Set in 1960s Phoenix, the book has wonderful period elements and a thoughtful protagonist, Caroline, whose curiosity and naivete threaten to bring her too close to answers about her sister's disappearance she's not expecting to find. Based on a true crime story, the book keeps you wondering and worried until the end. ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was immersed in teen narrator Caroline's painful and beautiful perspective. Loosely based on a 1960s serial killer in Tucson, AZ, this is a psychologically thrilling coming of age story about a girl who, in trying to find her missing sister, puts her trust in a "magical" but very dangerous young man. I admire Ross' gift for using such simple, straightforward language to convey such complex emotion. A sophisticated book for adults as well as teens. ...more
Jet Li
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I love most about this taut and tense tale are the characters. From our protagonist, Caroline, to her parents, her friends and half-friends, her missing sister, and the mesmeric Tony, this book is full of real and wonderful characters. As Caroline pursues any and all clues to the disappearance of her sister, you root for her, warn her, worry about her, scream at her not to do THAT or THIS, and maybe even fall for her. Read it.
Louise Berliner
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Just finished Emily's page-turner. Could not put it down! Great tight writing with strong story line, well-drawn characters, and a wonderful narrator whose innocence is balanced by, shall we say, untrustworthy characters?!! We get to see what she cannot. A good read for all ages. ...more
E. B. Moore
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read an early version of this book and was gripped from start to finish. The characters are terrifyingly believable, bringing every parents nightmare to life. I can't wait to read the published story. ...more
Lynne Griffin
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This terrific novel, written for young adults, is captivating, and will also appeal to adults who love page turning coming-of-age stories about adolescence, and those who connect with us to deceive.
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in one day. One freaking day. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. And now I'm going onto Wikipedia to research the Pied Piper of Tuscon. Chilling, I tell ya. Chilling. ...more
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