Playlist for the Dead

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Publisher
Age Range
14+
Release Date
January 27, 2015
ISBN
006231050X
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Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now. There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam's best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you'll understand. To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn't as reliable as he thought. And it might only be by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he'll finally be able to piece together his best friend's story. And maybe have a chance to change his own. Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that's always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it's about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

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Playlist Will Tug at Heartstrings
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Touchingly tragic and intriguing, Playlist for the Dead is a moving contemporary novel that deals with teen suicide and its after effects. Sam finds Hayden, his best – and only friend, unresponsive the morning after a party. Sam is left to figure out what exactly happened the night before, unsure how all the pieces fit together. All he has is a playlist with a note from Hayden saying he took his own life.

As a narrator, Sam is a deeply sympathetic character. He doesn’t have the entire picture and the reader struggles along with him as he goes on his journey to discover the truth. Michelle Falkoff has a delicate touch when it comes to Hayden’s suicide. There is nothing is simple. Suicide is complicated and in real life things can’t be explained in clear-cut terms. She doesn’t try to simplify what happened to Hayden with a single answer. The struggle Sam goes through, the struggle his family goes through, the struggle that even community goes through is real.

Falkoff allows the reader to feel the weight of Sam’s guilt and his confusion. As Sam tried to unravel the mystery, he discovers that he is not the only one that carries this guilt- this secret burdern. Others feel like they are to blame, that they should have known, that they could have done more.

It is difficult to say that there are things I loved about this book- the topic is serious. But I do love this book. It handles the topic of suicide and brings up the messy parts that sometimes society is afraid to talk about. This is a read for all teenagers and a book I believe should be discussed. The heaviness of Hayden’s suicide is balanced well with some humor and great references- Star Wars, video games, Donnie Darko. But Falloff doesn't allow the music or the pop culture references distract the reader from what is important. The mystery behind the events that happened that night creates a page-turner that allows Falkoff to talk about the issues while keeping the reader turning the page.

Overall, Playlist for the Dead is a important read that is full of intrigue, heartbreak, and the struggle people have when they have to remember the past while still moving on.
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1 review
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
3.0(1)
Characters
 
4.0(1)
Writing Style
 
4.0(1)
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Very good read
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
When Sam’s best friend Hayden kills himself, he leaves behind a playlist of songs with one message: listen and you’ll understand. Sam listens and he tries to decipher each song, wanting to understand what happened that night of the party, the night before Hayden killed himself. As hard as he tries, Sam can’t understand. Not until he started talking to other people and learning the whole truth of Hayden’s story.

I knew going into this book that the subject matter would make it a hard read. It’s not a subject that should be a light, easy read and the author did a good job balancing the storyline of Hayden’s bullying and suicide with Sam’s struggle to cope and move on. I really liked all the music references woven into the plot, the chapter titles being all songs, mentions of why a particular band or song was liked, what Sam thought Hayden was feeling by choosing certain songs.

Sam was a very sympathetic and enjoyable character. The book wasn’t just about him listening to the playlist to determine Hayden’s reasons but also about his own grief, guilt, and ability to move on. He had so much anger inside him, for Hayden’s bully of a brother, for Hayden’s parents, for himself, and for the most part, he kept all his feelings bottled up. I really enjoyed his relationship with his mother and his sister, and also his sister’s boyfriend. They were all so supportive of what he was going through even though he wasn’t talking to them and they provided some lighthearted moments.

I do wish we’d gotten more of Hayden. His characterization was built up in flashbacks and I did feel for him, but I would have liked to have had a little more time with him. Not too much more, just enough to give me a little better sense of who he was. I liked that he felt a little incomplete as a character since his life was cut so short, incomplete.

Since Hayden was Sam’s only friend, not only did he have to cope with losing Hayden, he was also alone. He had his family and the school counselor but it wasn’t the same as having friends. We see him resist a girl, Astrid, trying to get him to join her group, but it was nice to see him slowly accepting new people in his life. Some of the group I liked more than others, with Erik being my favourite.

The mystery surrounding Hayden’s decision, piecing together the night of the party, was slow to unravel but I had guessed pretty early on what had happened. Another mystery involved someone targeting Hayden’s bullies and getting revenge and it was hard to feel sorry for those bullies. It was another mystery that I had figured out the identity of the person pretty early. I did kind of like that the mysteries were a little predictable to me since it kept my focus on Sam’s grieving and coping instead of a big twist.

There were minor feels going on through the book until closer to the end. The last quarter or so of the book really got me, especially with one specific character interaction(which would be a spoiler to mention so read the book and you’ll likely know which one I’m talking about).
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