The A-Word: A Sweet Dead Life Novel

272p. SohoTeen. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781616952907; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9781616952914.
Gr 8 Up—Texas freshman Jenna Samuels has a lot going on. She's turning 15, her parents have split up, she's looking forward to her learner's permit and her first boyfriend, and a nefarious chemical company is inexplicably bent on testing mind control drugs on everyone in town. And, her brother Casey's been dead for a year but is still in residence as her guardian angel, making breakfast tacos and yearning for his old girlfriend. Jenna spends a lot of time hanging out with him and his angel bosses, a tough but distraught EMT/bartender named Amber, and a mysterious old coot with a storied past named Bo Shivers. Things are not quite right in their town and a mysterious "something" is coming. Between the Angel Management and the looming menace of Texicon, Jenna and her team have their hands and retracted wings full. In this follow-up to The Sweet Dead Life(Soho Teen 2013), Preble keeps the tone light, snarky, and heartfelt. The plot development is exposition-heavy, but it rolls along cheerfully through Halloween pranks, high school football, investigative reporting, angel-powered action, and a very realistic amount of aimless driving around. The relationship between the surprisingly self-possessed Jenna and the suave but frustrated Casey, especially their frank affection and determination to stick up for each other, gives this story some real heart. Casey's struggles with being dead are touching, and details such as Jenna's pleasure that her cupcake-baking boyfriend-to-be spells out all the words in his texts, provide the characters with likable individuality. Some of the plot twists and pop culture notes are jarring (there's an unforgivable "badonkadonk") and the supernatural rules are unclear and poorly thought out, but the book succeeds on its own goofy terms.—Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library
Jenna's guardian-angel brother Casey has lost the use of his wings and needs to know why he's still on earth. The siblings turn to rowdy angel Bo Shivers for answers, but he has another agenda. The journal format creates some pacing issues (e.g., Jenna rehashes events from the previous installment, The Sweet Dead Life, too often), but the characters are mildly engaging.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.