Adam Strand is bored. So bored. So bored that he wants to die. So he does. 39 times. Each time he wakes up “good” as new. Each time the people around him feel more and more devastated and he feels more and more drawn to die. Only when another person needs him does he start to question his place in the world and what his absence would mean.
Fair warning: this is a frank and unapologetic look at the urge to die. This is one of the least sentimental looks at suicide and suicidal thought I’v ever read, which makes it seem all too real. Adam pulls no punches and makes no apologies for wanting to die. Thusly, he isn’t always the most likable or relatable protagonist. However, he is clever and intelligent and his feeling of utter alienation and emptiness has been felt by a full 100% of the human population at least once during their lifetimes, so perhaps he’s so unsettling because in a dark and scary way he IS relatable. Galloway’s writing is excellent for the subject matter. He is excellent at drawing the reader in then pushing the reader away. This seesaw between interest and anger at Adam’s clearly selfish and devastating actions make for tough but fascinating reading. Since we are stuck with Adam as our Point of View we have to deal with his apathy and lack of understanding. This makes the book a character study of sadness and isolation that is hard to beat in YA literature. I was very happy that Galloway introduced elements of self-awareness and growth slowly and organically. You can’t have a kid kill himself 39 times and then meet a great gal or a true friend and then turn everything around. At the same time, it would be irresponsible if the book didn’t address the harm in Adam’s actions and just reveled in bleakness and edginess. Fortunately, Galloway excels at avoiding either extreme. I think anyone that wants to read a incredibly well written book should pick this up, especially if they know someone that has or has had problems with wanting to die. However, I don’t think anyone entertaining the thought of suicide should read this book until they’ve sought help first, because books like this can be triggering for people facing such thoughts.
As Galloway does at the end of this book I urge anyone considering harming themselves, or anyone that worries someone they know may harm themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-784-2433 or visit www.suicidehotlines.com.
You can check our catalog for The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand here.