The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really wanted to love this book, but it just missed. Adam is very Milo-esque: bored, doesn't see the point of things, everything is a circle, etc. Unlike Milo, however, no tollbooth and car appear to take him off on an adventure that includes giants, the doldrums, princesses, numbers and words.
No, Adam's curse(?) is that he simply doesn't die. And he's tried - drowning, falling from great height, shooting himself, setting himself on fire (and these aren't spoilers! we're told this within the first few pages of the book). Nothing works. He 'dies' for a few hours or days, then wakes up, no scars or broken bones or anything to show for it.
So what's the book about? It's an exploration of Adam's disaffected life, an attempt to give him a reason to want to live. Adam lives in a world where 85% of his classmates will not go to college but will work in factories, stock shelves, etc., a world that many teen readers will identify as being a member of. While there are cell phones and computer games, his summer is spent hanging out with his friends getting drunk, just idly biking around and trying to find some excitement. His many suicide attempts are even considered boring by the town!
What would have made this better? From a gore-lovers standpoint, more on the deaths: what exactly happens? It's very lightly covered in the book, with each death described as "I fell towards the water... my eyes opened..." I can see why this was done, but part of me wanted to know about the process. When he shoots himself, apparently there's gore - how does his body regenerate to the point it was at before the shooting? Part of me envisioned one of those scifi aliens, with parts slowly crawling/oozing towards each other before blending back into the human form. Granted, this is told from Adam's point-of-view and he isn't aware of it but... couldn't someone tell him?
The other missing I won't go into because of the spoiler issue. Let's just leave it that the ending wasn't as satisfying as it could have been. Having said that, I'm an adult who reads dark mysteries (Carol O'Connell, for example). A teen - particularly a teen boy in the Midwest - may find this a much better read than I did.
In case you're wondering, there is an author's note at the end that talks about suicide and suicide prevention; it does come across as just a little bit too little, too late in the book.
ARC provided by publisher.