17 May 2013

Imprint Friday: The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Soho Teen. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

To round out my celebration of Children's Book Week, I'm featuring a book from the relatively new Soho Teen imprint. When I read the premise of Joy Preble's new novel, The Sweet Dead Life, I knew it was a young adult novel for me. I liked that it had a contemporary setting and I was curious about how it was going to address the business of angels.

Here's the publisher's summary:

"I found out two things today: One, I think I'm dying. And two, my brother is a perv."

So begins the diary of Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad year. Her mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her older 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. Really 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, looking pretty good. Better than ever, in fact. Downright . . . angelic. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that her brother didn’t survive the accident at all, and she isn’t just sick; she’s being poisoned. Casey has been sent back to help Jenna find out who’s got it out for her, a mystery that leads to more questions about their mother’s depression and their father’s disappearance.
Right off the bat I want to note that although The Sweet Dead Life does indeed have angels, Preble has taken a fresh approach. Yes, Casey is looking pretty good, but he's living at home, and he himself isn't quite sure what to make of those strange feathery nubs that are beginning to form on his back. Death may have made him clean up his act, but he's still a teenager and has the attitude to match.

It's fourteen-year-old Jenna, however, who steals the show. The novel is told through her journal entries, which allows us to see her unguarded thoughts. She may swear a bit more than the average young teen, but she's full of spunk and has a resilient spirit.

Two other aspects of The Sweet Dead Life are worth noting. First, the mystery of what happened to Mr. Samuels and why Jenna was poisoned is very well set up. There are several possibilities and a few red herrings to throw us off track, but the plot is not so twisty that we can't have fun trying to figure it out all on our own.

Second, I liked the fact that this young adult paranormal novel does not involve an all-consuming love story. In fact, the book focuses on family, especially bothers and sisters. Preble must have an older brother because Jenna and Casey's relationship is incredibly realistic. The Samuels household is absolutely not The Waltons, which makes it easy to care about Jenna's future.

If you're looking for a contemporary young adult novel with believable characters (never mind the angels) and an engaging plot, then be sure to pick up The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble. The balanced mix of mystery and light paranormal elements give the book a broad appeal, and the deeper issues of family, depression, drugs, and abandonment give the story some meat.

Soho Teen, an imprint of Soho Press, released its first book in January 2013. Its debut catalog offers a strong lineup covering a variety of genres. To learn more about the imprint, visit the website, like the Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.

Buy The Sweet Dead Life at an indie or other bookstore near you.
Published by Soho Press / Soho Teen
, May 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616951504

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 5/17/13, 7:02 AM  

Wait, something is not computing here: a young adult paranormal novel that does NOT involve an all-consuming love story? How does that even get published? LOL

Sandy Nawrot 5/17/13, 7:05 AM  

How refreshing!!! No love triangle? No rapid heartbeats and feathery kisses? Ha! Since I have a son and a daughter, I might find this a tad disturbing but as long as they aren't beating the crap out of each other, then I'm OK I guess.

Julie P. 5/17/13, 4:17 PM  

I read a book by this author awhile back and enjoyed it.

Vicki 5/17/13, 5:54 PM  

Now I have to know who is poisoning her! I'm adding it to my list.

Laurie C 5/18/13, 5:34 PM  

Sounds like a refreshing break from tradition!

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