There is something kind of brilliant in the concept of this book. Young adult books are usually filled with so much angst and pathos, and it’s usually centered around death — the death of a close family member…the death of a close friend…the desire for death for one’s self.
Here, Adam Strand experiences the latter. But although he kills himself…he never stays dead. What’s brilliant here is that the reason for this is never explained. It’s not that Adam Strand fails in his attempts to kill himself. He succeeds, every time. But he is brought back to life, mysteriously, only to suffer and whine and complain about the boring-ness of life once again.
And he does whine about life.
I get it…it’s a classic YA gambit, and it actually didn’t bother me too much. Life sucks and nobody understands. So what else is new?
In usual fashion, our main character makes some realizations about life, through his death and through an unlikely source (WARNING *** SPOILER ALERT *** WARNING) a young girl fighting for her life. A local minister who comes to Adam’s aid, and offers advice, is also an unlikely (for Adam) source of information. But in keeping with the mystery of the book, the holy man never tries to explain why Adam doesn’t ever die.
Much of the time I enjoyed this read. The premise was intriguiing, the theme was right on target with what you would expect from a YA book.
But I can’t actually recommend the book.
Adam Strand himself was not identifiable.
I suspect that there are plenty of youngsters who consider, and even follow through on thoughts of suicide. Sadly, I know a couple who succeeded this past year alone. But I don’t think this book would have changed their minds or opened them up to new possibilities. Adama Strand is a jerk. He’s a jerk to everyone around him, and I don’t know that he ever redeems himself, with the exception of helping his friend.
When left to his own devices, Adam Strand seeks comfort in a bottle of booze. Fifteen years old and he’s an alcoholic. The CONSTANT use of alcohol was enough to make me think that this is not a book that either of my sons would ever read. They would not relate. I’m not sure they could even identify Adam Strand with others in their school — and if they could, would they care about the person?
And while the guy talk among teenagers is certain to turn to sex. The dialog was often just crude. I have no doubt that young men speak this way, but I didn’t find it necessary. The use of the “C” word was jarring, but purposeless.
I wanted to like this, but I am mostly glad that I’m done with it.
Looking for a good book? You might want to keep looking.
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The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand
author: Gregory Galloway
publisher: Dutton Juvenile
hardcover, 272 pages