Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
HarperTeen, 288 pages
Expected US Release Date: January 27, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend's suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.
Here's what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his 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.
As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it's only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.
Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, 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.
“Different strategies, same problems.”
So, I’m going to say this, and it may be mean, but I don’t intend it as mean as it will come out: saying this compares to The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was a terrible disservice. It made me expect too much, it made me think a certain development, a certain style, a certain self-exploration was going to happen—and unfortunately, it didn’t. It didn’t even come close.
Without the comparison, Playlist For the Dead was pretty good. I liked the little bits of mystery, how we’re trying to figure out what really happened to Hayden and why he did what he did. I enjoyed the music from the playlist too, it helped set a tone and a mood as long as I knew the song. And I admit that I only knew about 40% of them, so I think I definitely missed a few things about it…but it was enjoyable as it was.
I think my main complaint about this book is how anti-climactic it was. I didn’t think the breaks in action were really appropriate, nor did it follow through with the impact it was built up to be. None of the reveals really shocked me, none of the characters or the parts they played really came out of left field. I won’t go as far as to say it’s predictable, but…it was fairly obvious the direction things would go, and I found I was able to guess almost 100% correctly every time.
Weirdly, I kind of like how violent this story got. I don’t endorse violence! Do not think I am condoning going after someone with a bat, or anything remotely close to that! But I appreciated that this book went there, because that is an unfortunate reality to life, especially when it comes to an unfairness of someone taking his life and trying to understand why. Playlist For the Dead faced the helplessness of being left behind, the rage and anger at wanting to understand without being given all the pieces to do so. And I think that was a great thing to tackle, because not many books will.
Perhaps what I attached to most relates to the quote I chose to highlight: “Different strategies, same problems.” It’s a really clever way of summing up so much of this story. Two sides to everything. Different takes on the same thing. So many varying viewpoints and opinions and stories that culminate to the same thing, but take incredibly different paths to get there. It’s kind of a nice way to explain away a lack of depth to a lot of the characters, why sometimes the story is a bit chaotic. But it’s also a clever way of being a little more introspective than it seems.
Playlist For the Dead had a few disappointments for me, but still resonated in its message and the overall takeaway. I appreciated how head on it faced such a tough, sensitive subject—I just wish it had been done a teeny, tiny bit better.