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Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

I was literally laughing out loud by the end of page 1 of this book!  It has a really strong start, with a main character who has that snark that I love so much.  However, I finished the book slightly conflicted.

The Sweet Dead Life reads as a series of journal entries by the main character, Jenna.  She's 14, in 8th grade, and possibly dying.  This journal (this book) is her way of recounting events that transpire.  Jenna has been sick and getting sicker for a few weeks now.  Unfortunately, her mom is deeply depressed and her older teen brother is always high and she's only in 8th grade and unable to take herself to the doctor.  One afternoon, Jenna passes out and her brother decides it's time to go to the hospital.  When Jenna wakes up in the hospital after surviving a major car wreck, her brother is suddenly beatified.  His skin has cleared up and he's standing up straighter.  And he's being nice to her.  How weird.  Turns out:  he didn't survive the car wreck with her, and he's now an angel.  (This isn't a spoiler; it's in the summary on the back of the book.)

Things that I love about The Sweet Dead Life:  Jenna's dry sense of humor.  I'm talking Sahara Desert dry here.  I love it!  As I mentioned before, I was literally chuckling out loud.  I also love the sibling/family dynamic in the book.  Joy Preble manages to show how much the siblings love each other and their mom while still keeping it all real.  They occasionally get frustrated with each other, but they always have each other's backs and will do whatever it takes to keep the family together and afloat.  I also love that this book shows teens dealing with a parent with mental illness.  Jenna and Casey's mom is so depressed that she literally cannot get out of bed some days.  She's stopped cooking and cleaning and working.  This is, unfortunately, a reality that some teens are living.  It's nice to have books that reflect that.

Some things that turned me off just a little:  Jenna's language and independence.  She's only 14 and in 8th grade, but I kept picturing her closer to 16 or 17.  She has the mouth of a sailor!  Realistically, I don't see myself recommending this book to many middle schoolers.  So I kind of wish the main character was solidly high school to more closely match her personality and language.  I also got a little weary of the drug references.  Jenna repeatedly references Casey's affinity for marijuana.  Like, every other page.  This was another reason why I thought Jenna should maybe be a little older; she was very aware of the weed smoking, and knowledgeable as to when and where Casey got his weed from.  Weed is the only drug named in the book, so there's none of the hard stuff.  But still... it was a little heavy-handed for my taste.

While the middle got just a little bogged down, the start and finish of The Sweet Dead Life were strong enough and entertaining enough for me to add the sequel to my to-read list.  It's a quick read; a mystery; some of the characters are angels; most of the characters are teens.


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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1 Person left their mark:

  1. Glad to hear it was good! I had an ARC of this from BEA in 2012, but never got around to it before I think I passed it on in a giveaway or YA Book Exchange. Great review! Now I wish I'd kept it!