Author: Gregory Galloway
Publication Date: February 21, 2013 (Penguin – North America)
Genre: YA contemporary, fantasy, magical realism?
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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 wakes 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.
☆: 1/5 stars – interesting concept, but really failed to deliver.
Review: Usually, I love risky books in YA that deal with the darker issues (or tough stuff issues, depending on the content) – the more risky, the better. I love authors who don’t quite want to stay in the safe status quo, and so I thought that “39 Deaths” would make it into this category of awesome. Sadly, I was mistaken. “39 Deaths” has a promising premise, but ultimately fails to deliver in pretty much every way.
Where to start? Ah, yes, the sensory imagery and language. Only rarely did Adam talk about how he died in the sensory arena, but sadly, there was way more telling than showing when it came to the previous 38 deaths of Adam Strand, and that was disappointing. I mean, when you’re going into details about your suicides, at least show them. Sounds callous, but it’s true. Most of the sensory imagery that was supposed to be in this book before I DNF’d it just wasn’t here. There was a lot of summarizing, a lot of telling of how Adam has gotten to this point in his life so far. It kind of felt like those summaries you get with TV shows, to be honest.
Next, the worldbuilding: it was pretty much non-existent, externally. Internally, there was some worldbuilding going on, but not enough to really keep things going with tension and reflection on all of those deaths that supposedly spur him forward with this relationship with this girl as part of the plot. His voice as a character, while sometimes dry and witty, is more or less very flat most of the time. Which was a huge disappointment, because it further emphasized how much better this book could have been.
Several edits and maybe a few more rewrites were needed to really make this one pop right off the page, and into the awesome category of risktakers. The concept was great, but…concept isn’t everything. Execution is what makes things happen for the reader. The rules of the world really count – and with how the deaths occur (does he just wake up? How long does he remain dead for? How has this gone undiscovered for so long) to name one large rule of the world – isn’t even really established at all. It was incredibly frustrating.
So while I applaud Galloway on trying to get onto the edgier side of YA, I just can’t recommend “39 Deaths”. But that’s just how I feel about it. “The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand” is out now in North America from Penguin, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!