This book was so incredibly intriguing—I could not stop reading.
Title: Half Life
Author: Lillian Clark
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Genres: YA Science Fiction
I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
An overachiever enrolls in an experimental clone study to prove that two (of her own) heads are better than one in this fast-paced, near-future adventure that’s Black Mirror meets Becky Albertalli.
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?
The most compelling part of this book are the characters, despite this being a speculative sci-fi. I haven’t read Lillian Clark’s debut, but I immediately knew that her writing strength was her characters. Lucille is an overachiever, a perfectionist. She struggles to make time for the important things in her life, such as her family—which is breaking apart—and her best friend—who feels really distant. Not to mention her schoolwork and college aspirations. I really related to Lucille because of this—who doesn’t want more time in their life to do the things that are important to you? I really liked how the author slowly revealed Lucille’s selfishness through Lucy, the perfect foil.
I really connected to Lucy. Her desire to have her own life despite all these memories inside of her… it’s tragic and emotional. I loved her part of the story the most. Most clone books revolve around cloning from birth, or finding your clone living another life, but this book is about having a mental, emotional, physical clone—in every aspect. The tension between Lucille and Lucy is so believable because of how alike they are yet how different they are because of their circumstances.
The ethical dilemmas are thoroughly explored in this book, and I really loved to see how it can affect a regular, struggling teenager who might be so desperate as to not consider the consequences. It was exciting to see Lucille realize what she needs to learn and consider, as it was exciting to see Lucy come into her own voice and personality. The author was able to do this effectively because of the dual POV used throughout the book.
The tension is further heightened because of the secondary characters that affect Lucille’s and Lucy’s life. These characters also felt really three-dimensional to me. They had their own worries, their own lives and hobbies. They didn’t revolve around Lucille (and Lucy) and it really shows it in a realistic way.
My only critique is that I think the ending felt really rushed. I was at the ninety-five percent mark and I still wasn’t sure how this book was supposed to wrap up. I did love how it ended, but I wish the author could have taken more time to slow it down. Honestly, I wish this could’ve been a duology—I felt that there was so much more to explore in this world the author created. However, that’s obviously not in the author’s control, it’s just a wish of mine 😀
- The science-y stuff… I’ll be honest, I didn’t take much stock in it. The characters are definitely the important stuff, so I’m glad the author didn’t dwell too long on this part of the story (though what was described sounded really cool!)
- The exploration of the ethical dilemmas for the adults in the book is… terrifying. It glued me to my seat. (I won’t say more because of spoilers).
This is such an intriguing book. I’d highly recommend this to people who enjoy character-driven speculative stories.
About the Author
Lillian Clark, a graduate of the University of Wyoming, grew up riding horses, climbing trees, and going on grand imaginary adventures in the small-town West. She’s worked as a lifeguard, a camp counselor, and a Zamboni driver, but found her eternal love working as a bookseller at an independent bookstore. Now living in Teton Valley, Idaho with her husband, son, and two giant dogs, she spends her time reading almost anything and writing books for teens.