“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”
So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.
Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.
I initially requested The Sweet Dead Life because it was a short read and I figured I could use it to fill out the gaps between other reviews, I wasn't particularly excited to read it but I as after something short one day so I thought I would give it a go. After I finished the book a few hours later, I realised that I was pretty glad I grabbed this book.
This is a fun, cute and sassy book, definitely different from what I was expecting. The paranormal mixed with the mystery worked very well and I was engrossed in both aspects of the book. The mystery itself was well written, though I was suspicious of who the culprit was from the middle of the book I had no idea what their motivation was. The angel side of the story was also interesting - I spent a lot of the time wondering what would happen to Casey after the big mystery was solved.
What really made this book for me was Jenna, she was a sassy and smart narrator who never ever whined or moaned. Jenna's narration is funny and savvy and she honestly did read as a fourteen year old girl. Casey was an amazing character, I loved him but I did feel like he read as a little older than his sixteen years, to me he seemed more like eighteen or so. I also really liked Amber, who had the brains and the attitude which really evened off the group's dynamics.
The ending was absolutely perfect. Everything works out in the end, even if they don't work out perfectly, as much as I love happy endings all tied up in a bow the ending to The Sweet Dead Life really worked for me.
Please note that while this book is tagged as middle grade and has a younger protagonist, there are some older themes such as some swearing and mention of erm... "self-love".
Overall Rating: B
Book released 14th May 2013 by Soho Teen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (Edelweiss)