...an irresistible first novel ... Arnett possesses all the bravery her characters dream of. There’s none of the shyness and self-consciousness of so much American fiction that masks itself as austerity. She writes comic set pieces to make you laugh, sex scenes to turn you on. The action flips from the past to the present, swimming through first love and first grief on a slick of red Kool-Aid and vodka, suntan oil and fruity lip gloss, easy and unforced. This book is my song of the summer. Corner me, though, and I’ll admit that it suffers slightly from some first-novel blues. The setup is expert, but the pace occasionally stutters. The climax feels rushed and muted, the resolution a little pat. Not that it matters much; in fiction as much as taxidermy, it is the feeling of vigor and spirit that matters, that is proof of success. And the pulse in this book emanates not only from its sun-drunk, word-drunk wit, but from what it knows about life ... Subtly, unmistakably a beautiful lineage is suggested in these echoes of the great heroines of American literature — so many tomboys, so many queer women. Their shadows flicker, trailing between the alligator jaws and deer hooves and peacock feathers in this book of inheritances, this cabinet of wonders.
The world Arnett creates for Jessa is lushly gross, as if the character’s aspirational impassivity has squeezed her emotions out into the material world, rendering everything as rude and compelling as her own suppressed vulnerability ... The outward conflicts presented at the outset of the novel find their resolutions, though the real story here is an inside job, and Arnett pulls it off with aplomb. Jessa is the disastrous heroine of our dreams; her job has never been to clean herself up, but to open herself ... the catharsis of Mostly Dead Things delivers.
... an astonishing debut novel that’s both a new entry in the long history of great fiction about grief and a darkly comic flight of brilliance that transports the reader to a familiar yet alien world of frozen moments and dysfunctional love ... Arnett’s precise, wickedly witty prose paints a portrait of a searcher, of a woman longing for what came before even if she’s no longer entirely sure what she liked about it, even as she attempts to let something new into her life. It all comes together in a bold, dark and profound comic novel about the nature of love, loss and invention ... announces Arnett as one of the most promising rising novelists writing today.