Half Life is an intriguing YA Sci Fi that led me to writing this hot mess of a review because I love the book, but it could have been more.
Rating: 4.25 Stars
An ARC of this novel was sent to me by the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed below are completely my own and not influenced in any way. Thank you to the publisher for providing me the opportunity to read this novel early!
Author: Lillian Clark
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Synopsis: There aren’t enough hours in the day for Lucille—perfectionist, overachiever—to do everything she has to do, and there certainly aren’t enough hours to hang out with friends, fall in love, get in trouble—all the teenage things she knows she should want to be doing instead of preparing for a flawless future. So when she sees an ad for Life2: Do more. Be more, she’s intrigued.
The company is looking for beta testers to enroll in an experimental clone program, and in the aftermath of a series of disappointments, Lucille is feeling reckless enough to jump in. At first, it’s perfect: her clone, Lucy, is exactly what she needed to make her life manageable and have time for a social life. But it doesn’t take long for Lucy to become more Lucy and less Lucille, and Lucille is forced to stop looking at Lucy as a reflection and start seeing her as a window—a glimpse at someone else living her own life, but better. Lucy does what she really wants to, not what she thinks she should want to, and Lucille is left wondering how much she was even a part of the perfect life she’d constructed for herself. Lucille wanted Lucy to help her relationships with everyone else, but how can she do that without first rectifying her relationship with herself?
Half Life could have been more. Now, before you go and think that by me saying this, I think it was a bad book, let me explain. I really enjoyed this book…but it could have been so much more. I need to soap box for a moment about YA Science Fiction. I feel like the industry just assumes that every YA reader (whether they are adult or actual YAs) wants a focus on romance. And I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good romance plot, but sometimes there are stories that get bogged down with the romance and the really good, meaty part of the story gets pushed to the side. This is what happened in Half Life.
There is a lot of intriguing material in Half Life. Clark explores divorce and how it affects the children caught in the middle, the immense pressure on teens in their high school years, and the rough road to accepting oneself. There is also the more science-y side dealing with the ethics of cloning and what it means to be an individual being vs an entity created only to serve a purpose. Clark manages to balance the normal life aspect with the science aspect, but in a weirdly chunky way. We get a chunk of normal life, then a whole mess of science-y stuff with a little bit of normal peppered in, and then a whole bunch on normal life with some science-y stuff peppered in, and then the two merge together for a science-y action ending that wraps up way too fast. I guess what I’m saying is it’s balanced in an unbalanced way…
All that being said, I found myself wanting to constantly pick the book back up to read. It took me a week to read the book, but that’s only because I’ve been so darn busy. I thought about this story when I wasn’t reading it, and that is a sign of a good story in my opinion.
Clark has a writing style that I find I quite enjoyed. There are moments that feel very dry and straight forward, but then she hits you with this gut punch of emotions in one line. Probably the best example of this is the following: “And my house fees like living inside that ache in your throat when you refuse to cry.” Like…damn. Clark also perfectly nailed the teenage experience in this one. From the pressures of school, the drama in friendships, and the chaos of first love, Clark deftly created a highly relatable character in Lucille Harper.
What I was really missing from this book came at the end. With so much of the book focusing on romance and friendship, the story lost what could have been a very suspenseful and engaging cat and mouse game between Lucille and Life2. Throughout the whole story, there is an undercurrent of “something’s not quite right with Life2”, but it mostly gets pushed to the side. It’s not until about 80% into the book when we finally start to get some answers and some good momentum with mysteries of Life2. And I LOVED what we got, but I know it could have been so much better with slightly more focus on the mysterious cloning company plot.
So, how can I wrap up this review that can at best be described as a “chaotic hot mess”?
I think you should check out this book. I think it’s good, regardless of some faults I pointed out. With reading being such an individual thing, everyone is going to take their own feelings from the story. I find Clark to be a very intriguing writer and I am immensely glad that I have a copy of her previous book to read after this (Immoral Code, it’s heist-y and revenge-y, I’m INTRIGUED!).