From School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-This colorful tale of Texas teens vs. comically juvenile adults moves quickly and is never short on laughs. Eighth-grader Jenna has already endured the disappearance of her father; the complete vegetablization of her mother; and a bizarre and sudden illness that turns her pea green, her tongue full of weird dark patches, and a rash on her feet that makes even her favorite pair of boots unbearable. So when her brother wrecks their Prius in an effort to get Jenna to the hospital, she doesn't quite notice the strange circumstances of the crash. She does, however, notice her brother's transformation from paunchy stoner to chiseled hunk. His appearance isn't the only thing that's drastically altered. Jenna's life takes a serious turn when she is informed that her illness is the product of slow and deliberate poisoning. Jenna and her newly reformed brother begin to question everything from their father's disappearance to their mother's mysterious ailments. Preble's narrator is spot-on, and readers will relate to her as she speaks, acts, and behaves like a 14-year-old. Although several questions are left unanswered, they don't detract from the story; if anything, they lend credibility. After all, some subjects are too complicated for a cookie-cutter ending. The Sweet Dead Life is a great addition to any collection.-Jennifer Furuyama, Pendleton Public Library, ORα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Fourteen-year-old Jenna has been seriously ill for a month. But the larger issues of her unemployed, depressed single mother and her mysteriously missing father distract her from taking care of herself. When Jenna collapses, her older brother Casey drives her to the hospital and ends up crashing their car. When Jenna wakes up, she finds that Casey seems to have gotten much better looking, and that the touch of his hand is incredibly soothing—that’s because Casey died in the car crash and is now an angel, remaining on earth to look after his family. There’s a whole lot going on here: poisonings, blackmail, sibling relationships, romance, and abandonment, in addition to angels, but the unifying thread is Jenna’s clever, bitter, self-aware, and loving voice. Told in journal entries that span five weeks, the novel’s multiple story lines will likely continue in a sequel. The small-town Texas setting is delightfully detailed but not parochial. Preble’s lively descriptions and unusually well-drawn, caring sibling relationship (a topic not usually explored in teen fiction) are especially noteworthy. Grades 8-12. --Debbie Carton