Cover of The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand. Photograph of a bridge

About the Book

Title: The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand
Published: 2013

Cover Story: The Scenic Bridges of New England
Drinking Buddy:
You’ve Had Enough
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (language, suicide)
Talky Talk:
Maddening Omissions
Bonus Factors:
Crusty Old Men, Precocious Little Girl
Bromance Status:
You’re Still Hanging Around?

Cover Story: Scenic Bridges of New England

I’m not gripped. The bridge does not excite me. The title, however, grabs my attention.

The Deal:

Sixteen-year-old Adam Strand is fed up with life in his dead-end Iowa town. So he decides to end it all and jumps off a bridge into the river below. And he dies. Only he comes back to life. And he does this again and again. Thirty-nine times, actually, over the course of several years. Not just jumping, either: shotgun, slit wrists, poison, etc. But he always resurrects, and is soon back drinking with his friends and pining over Jodi, the girl he likes but is afraid to tell.

There. That’s the whole book.

Drinking Buddy: You’ve Had Enough

Two pints of beer cheersing

So Adam is immortal, more or less. True, he still ages, and can be injured, but he essentially cannot die. This is something men have tried to sell their souls to achieve. Something mankind has dreamed of for twenty-thousand years.

Adam gets drunk with his friends and steals shopping carts.

YOU CANNOT DIE. Cannot die. The possibilities are literally endless. Put on a superhero costume and confront criminals in the inner city. Let people hit you with an ax for money. Go moon Bashar al-Assad. Travel the world, doing good deeds. Play chicken with an Amtrak train.

Instead, he just hangs out until he decides to jump again.

I don’t like you.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (language, suicide)

See above. Adam’s suicides are so common his parents literally argue about whether he should be punished for missing curfew when he’s dead.

Talky Talk: Maddening Omissions

So, um, how come he never dies? Alien interference? Deal with the devil? Radioactive meteor?

Actually, no one seems to care. Adam is kind of like the guy with the monster truck or the sixty year old woman who always wears the tube top. Just kind of a local eccentric.

“Looks like the Strand kid is dead again. Get a garbage bag, we’ll take him home.”

The city considers putting up extra fences around the bridge, but they really need the money for the roads…

So, does nobody think this is weird, or anything? That perhaps the secret to human longevity is buried in this boy’s DNA? That Adam may actually be a god or a devil?

Nope. His friends are more interested when they discover a dead cow in the river.

Bonus Factor: Crusty Old Men

Jack Lemmon and Martin Landau in Grumpy Old Men

While no one seems to wonder if Adam may be the second coming, a few people in town are concerned for his mental well-being. The retired judge who keeps finding Adam’s body washed up at his riverfront property. The hyper-religious police dispatcher. Mr. Coolidge, the Chuck Palahniuk-loving English teacher.

Of course, their efforts are apathetic at best. You tend not to worry about a suicidal boy if he won’t stay dead.

Bonus Factor: Precocious Little Girl

A little girl

Jodi (Adam’s secret crush) babysits for Maddie, a ten-year-old girl with an interest in physics and photography. She has kind of a big brother crush on Adam, and is the only one who wants him to look deeper into the meaning of his gift.

Coincidentally, she’s the only truly likeable character in this book.

Bromance Status: You’re Still Hanging Around?

I was very intrigued when I first met you, but I soon realized your godlike powers don’t come with a personality. Even Bill Murray realized you can do amazing things with eternity. Call me when you get a life.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor the meaning of life for reviewing this library book.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.