It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but Caroline’s life is no longer peaceful. Since her beautiful older sister Jess disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline can’t stop blaming herself and looking for leads. Her parents do nothing but drink and fight. The police have no solid leads. The only person who cares is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend. Tony convinces Caroline that Jess has run away to magical, sunny California. Tony wants Caroline to go with him to find Jess. And Caroline sees no option but to follow, even if Tony scares her a little sometimes with his blue-eyed intensity.
Caroline’s innocence is slipping away with her sister’s disappearance. Having this story told from the perspective of a curious fifteen-year-old girl struggling with her identity does a tremendous service for the reader. Caroline is sad, but not bogged down in grief the way an adult would be. She’s optimistic about her sister’s fate and convinced that everything is going to be okay while the adults in her life are dismissive. And she’s convinced she and Tony are the only people who can solve the mystery of Jess’s disappearance.
The dynamic between a girl and her older sister is perfectly explored in this book. When you’re the younger sister, you want what your sister has. You want to feel what she feels. You want her boyfriend to look at you the way he looks at her, even if that’s a little creepy. You want to wear her clothes and be her, even if she has a way of finding trouble that disturbs you. This is the trap Caroline falls into. Her missteps are understandable, even if they make your heart race.
Emily Ross is a master of tension and suspense. Half in Love With Death grabs you from the first page, and doesn’t let go until long after the last word.