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My So-Called Dead Life

A review of Joy Preble's witty mystery, The Sweet Dead Life, which kicks ass in cowboy boots (don't worry, it's not a western). Psst: there's also a giveaway!

My So-Called Dead Life

BOOK REPORT for The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

Cover Story: Just Fine
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Self-Aware
Bonus Factors: Houston, Angels Done Right, Mystery
Relationship Status: Roomies

Cover Story: Just Fine

I'm not crazy about the hot pink, especially because this is a book that really would go over well with boys as much as girls (donneven get me started on gender marketing and boy vs girl books. This book won't make kids pull a Fred Savage and say, "Wait, is this a kissing book?" is what I'm saying. And yes, I know boys like kissing books and girls don't always. But ANYWAY, despite Jason Collins, carrying a book with hot pink will still get lots of boys beaten up, especially in this book's home state of Texas*).

*Before you get all defensive about the great state, remember I grew up there and lived there for 25 of my nearly 32 years, and I get as impatient as you do when the world treats Texas as the last bastion of crazy, BUT you know I'm totally right, because Rick Perry. Anyway, TEXAS FOREVER.

The Deal:

So, back to the actual book review. Jenna Samuels is dying, like for real dying, not the OMG-my-mom-is-sooooo-embarrassing dying way of a typical 14-year-old. On the way to the hospital, her stoner brother Casey (who is really soooooo embarrassing) crashes the car and actually does die. Lucky for Jenna, he comes back as an A-you-know-what (and not asshole - he already kind of was one of those), ready to help Jenna find out who's trying to kill her, as well as sort out what the hell is going on with their majorly wrecked mom and disappeared dad.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Not only do I salute Jenna's excellent taste in footwear (Ariat boots), I also salute her general kickassery. She's smart, funny, and manages to keep her shit together in definite shambles-making situations.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This book is about Jenna saving lives, yo. She doesn't have time for romance, and besides, she's in eighth grade. I was a late bloomer for sure, so when I was in eighth grade, romances consisted of holding hands at the bus stop and listening to each other breathe on the phone but never actually talking, or, like KISSING, and that's how I'd like to imagine all middle school kids. Innocent and slightly nerdy. There's plenty of time for crazy stuff later, trust me. Plenty.

Talky Talk: Self-Aware

So I really had no idea what to call this. Precocious, maybe? Jenna's voice is sharp and funny, old for her age without actually being unbelievable, you know? She also has a cute way of dropping in vocabulary words that made me laugh. Preble also completely captures the wasteland of Texas suburbs, and never once misuses (or misspells) "y'all."

Bonus Factor: Houston

People either love Houston or hate it, and I'm firmly in the LOVE IT camp. Sure, it's a nightmare of urban sprawl, and sometimes smells like sulfur after it rains, and in the summer you need to take the showered a day because of the heat and humidity, oh and did I mention the mosquitos? It's also vibrant and crazy and huge and full of delicious, cheap food and doesn't think it's too cool for school like some other cities I could mention.

(You can buy this awesome tshirt right here.)

Bonus Factor: Angels Done Right

Jenna's so embarrassed by the angel thing, she can't even say the word, so don't worry this will turn into one of those angels-are-the-new-vampire romance books.

Bonus Factor: Mystery

I love a good mystery, and there still aren't enough of them in YA, despite me complaining about it for years and years. This one's not super tricksy, but it's still fun.

Casting Call:

Mae Whitman as Jenna

I reeeeally wanted to cast Mae Whitman as Jenna, but she's a wee bit too old to play a 14-year-old (and I'm one of the few who does not care when 30-year-olds play teenagers on TV). Unfortunately, my pop culture knowledge score is at a -75 right now, so I got no one else for you.

Steven R. McQueen as Casey

Relationship Status: Roomies

Book, you'd be a great roommate. You'd be loads of fun, but also know when it's time to study. Also, maybe you'd let me borrow those awesome boots? Just, you know, your NEW ones.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Soho Press. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Sweet Dead Life will be available May 14.

Wanna win a copy? Leave a comment about any of the bonus factors -- how you feel about Houston, YOUR favorite much-maligned city, angels, the dearth of mystery in YA, whatevs. Just as long as it's something besides, "Pick me!" Hey, there's no such thing as a free book. Okay, there is, but it's not like I'm asking for your firstborn child here. I don't want your firstborn child, anyway -- I have my own problems! I'll pick a winner by Sunday, May 19. (contest closed)

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.