The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand

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Adam Strand isn’t depressed. He’s just bored. Disaffected. So he kills himself—39 times. No matter the method, Adam can’t seem to stay dead; he awakes after each suicide alive and physically unharmed, more determined to succeed and undeterred by others’ concerns. But when his self-contained, self-absorbed path is diverted, Adam is struck by the reality that life is an ever-expanding web of impact and forged connections, and that nothing—not even death—can sever those bonds.

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The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand

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Adam Strand isn’t depressed. He’s just bored. Disaffected. So he kills himself—39 times. No matter the method, Adam can’t seem to stay dead; he awakes after each suicide alive and physically unharmed, more determined to succeed and undeterred by others’ concerns. But when his self-contained, self-absorbed path is diverted, Adam is struck by the reality that life is an ever-expanding web of impact and forged connections, and that nothing—not even death—can sever those bonds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this introspective novel from adult author Galloway (As Simple as Snow), a teenager’s longing for death is thwarted by his inability to die. Adam Strand is a suicidal 17-year-old who returns from the dead after every attempt to take his own life, whether from jumping from a bridge, drowning, taking poison, or hanging. His friends are tolerant, his family frustrated, his neighbors annoyed, and his therapist useless. Over a summer, Adam contemplates his role in the world, confronts his lack of motivation, hangs out with his friends, and tries to connect to others. It’s a bleak, provocative, and almost nihilistic story in which very little actually happens. The narrative has a tendency to backtrack, meander, or come to a halt—there’s an inertia to the novel that mirrors Adam’s disinterest in existence, though he gains an appreciation of life in a resolution that’s neat but not overly rosy. Readers may see something of themselves in Adam’s confusion and dark impulses, in which case his message is clear: “I am moving forward, inch by inch some days.” Ages 14–up. Agent: David Halpern, the Robbins Office. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Tina Chan
Sixteen-year-old Adam Strand kills himself thirty-nine times. Why? He has friends and family. He is not depressed. He is just bored. Whether he jumps off a bridge, dies by stabbing, or jumps over a moving truck, Adam comes back to life unharmed. He is more determined than ever to succeed after every attempt. Then he discovers that his father is the person who discovers his body and returns him to a safe place each time, causing Adam to look at his father in a different light. He also finds out that his ten-year-old friend Maddy is ill. She contemplates committing suicide to find out whether she will return to life. These events help Adam realize that his actions affect those who care for him. As he turns seventeen and reaches the end of the story, Adam is no longer interested in committing suicide. Instead, he is focused on going away for college. A heartwarming story about a teenage boy who starts out selfish, but ends as a mature and thoughtful young man. Reviewer: Tina Chan AGERANGE: Ages 14 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Teenager Adam Strand is bored, self-absorbed, and desperate to have some control over his own life; he has committed suicide 39 times. However, after each act he has awoken hours or days later, physically unscathed. The people in his bleak factory town in rural Iowa have come to view his failed suicides as more of a nuisance than a miracle. Adam's narrative includes several nonlinear flashbacks dating back to his early childhood, but the primary story takes place over the course of the summer before his senior year. The chapter titles, which include the chronological number of the suicide contained within, help to clarify the time line. The lack of action may leave some readers restless; the novel is made up largely of static situations, such as Adam and his friends getting drunk and watching a dead cow decompose or Adam complaining about his parents' many idiosyncrasies. Galloway's exquisite writing, however, more than makes up for the slow pace. Using raw imagery, he perfectly crafts Adam's philosophical, meandering account of his life and deaths. He relates Adam's plight to that of Sisyphus, and also includes references to the works of Kafka, Twain, and Poe, among others. Secondary characters are well developed and easily distinguishable. Fans of gritty realistic fiction such as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (Farrar, 1999) and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (Penguin, 2007) will appreciate Adam's thoughtful, authentic adolescent voice, and the honesty and boldness with which Galloway treats the issue of suicide.—Liz Overberg, Darlington Middle School, Rome, GA
Kirkus Reviews
Suicide from the eyes of a survivor. Seventeen-year-old Adam Strand tells readers up front that he doesn't want to tell his story; he really wishes he didn't have a story to tell. He's killed himself 39 times using various methods: jumping, bullets, poisoning and more. For reasons that are never explained, however, he always manages to wake up a few hours after each attempt as if it never happened. His parents and friends are nonplussed by his behavior--his father even includes "dead time" in his grounded hours for every minute past his curfew that he spends dead. Alex Award winner Galloway's first novel for teens is all character sketch and atmosphere. He pens beautifully rendered landscapes--a haunting, abandoned bridge over a river, a ravaged statue of an angel in the town square. These melancholy descriptions reveal more of the story than Adam or his supporting characters. Adam himself is simultaneously provocative and off-putting as a narrator. His story is compelling, but he withholds. Herein lies the problem: Galloway leaves out the bits that teens would want to read about most: the suicide details, solid connections between Adam and his friends, a budding romance. All are either buried or glided over with a cool nonchalance that will be hard to follow for teens accustomed to titles like Thirteen Reasons Why. A moody, compelling read that never cuts to the quick. (Fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525425656
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 2/21/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 670,119
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Galloway received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His first novel, As Simple As Snow, was a recipient of the Alex Award. This is his first YA novel.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2014

    Interesting enough.

    Although not the best read, it was pretty intriguing. I have found myself plenty of times not being able to put down the book simply because I needed to know what was going to occur next, where was this book going.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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