Playlist for the Dead
by Michelle Falkoff
Publication Date: 27 January 2015
Summary (from Goodreads): 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.
Playlist for the Dead had a good concept, but unfortunately the execution of it was not done well. There were a few redeemable qualities about this book, but overall it was a disappointment.
First, let’s talk characters. The main character, Sam, was very irritating. I personally did not enjoy his attitude that he was the only one allowed to mourn Hayden. He feels as though since he is Hayden’s only friend, no one else–not Hayden’s parents, not his brother, no one else–is allowed to be sad. He was also really, really dumb. Another major character was Astrid. I actually liked her character, even though it was cliche. She added a bit of fun to the novel, and even though I didn’t like the romantic aspect of this novel (which I’ll talk more about later), I liked her.
Other characters include Eric (Astrid’s friend), Rachel (Sam’s sister), Sam’s mother, Jimmy (Rachel’s boyfriend), Hayden’s brother Ryan and Ryan’s friend. None of them really stood out to me. Jimmy was pretty much there only to be a cliche boy-who-looks-bad-but-is-actually-really-nice. Eric was there to be the mandatory homosexual character that exists only to be homosexual that seems to be in every contemporary novel.
The writing in this book was interesting. I read the book fairly quickly, which is obviously a good thing, but something about the writing felt immature to me for some reason. It was a bit difficult for me to enjoy the writing.
One thing that really annoyed me about this book was the romantic aspect. I really did not appreciate how Falkoff turned her suicide novel into a romance one. It felt unnecessary and honestly, I think this book would have worked a lot better if there was no romantic subplot. I also don’t think that anyone would be eager to get into a relationship mere days after their best and only friend kills themselves. But, you know, every young adult novel has to have some sort of romance.
Another thing that really bothered me was the playlist itself. Hayden supposedly left the playlist for Sam to understand why he killed himself, but that didn’t happen. The playlist was what made the concept good, but it wasn’t even a necessary part of the book.
While this isn’t the worst book I’ve read this year (that achievement belongs to Inked), it still wasn’t very good. It had cliche characters, unnecessary romance, and an annoying main character. If you want something that tries to be deep and is a quick read, this could be for you, but otherwise, I’d recommend picking something else up.