The Sweet Dead Life
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 sixteen-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.
When she wakes up, things get very, very interesting...
The book does start with a 'middle grade' sort of feel, but once things start moving along it definitely takes a good 'young adult' turn. We see spunky 13 year old Jenna mature and take responsibility like no other teen should have to. With creativity, humor and sass, Jenna is able to deal with whatever life throws her way - her absence from school, her medical care, having no adult supervision, taking care of her mother and to top it all off - a brother who is now an angel?! And that's not all! With the help of Casey's 'angel-ism', they soon discover that Jenna's illness and their mothers forgetfulness and supposed depression are related and someone is purposefully making them sick, maybe even trying to kill them! And all of this may be the reason why their father has disappeared...
The relationship between Jenna and Casey is so realistic and amazing - every time they are together you get some really great sister and brother moments that leave you chuckling and, if you have a sibling, completely relating to them. They have their ups and downs, but under the circumstances that have come to light, they need each other more than ever. And absolutely nothing can keep these two apart. Not even a pair of angel wings.
A fast-paced novel for ages 12 and up. There is something for everyone in this book. Joy Preble has wowed me with her writing and realistic story. She really knows how to create a realistic family dynamic.
I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series called THE A-WORD, which is expected to be released in May 2014.