Playlist for the Dead – Michelle Falkoff

Playlist for the Dead – Michelle Falkoff

Here’s what Sam knows:
There was a party.
There was a fight.
The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead.
All he left Sam was a playlist – and a note, saying that he took his own life.
But what Sam doesn’t know is: Why?

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. Especially when someone claiming to be Hayden starts sending him cryptic messages, and a series of violent attacks begins on the bullies who made Hayden’s life hell.

Sam knows he has 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 – including an eccentric, unpredictable girl who’s got secrets, too – that Sam will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story.

And maybe have a chance to change his own.

First of all, holy extensive jacket copy. Thanks for telling me the whole story before I’ve even opened the book.

Second of all, I read an advanced copy of this, so I have no idea how much (if anything) was changed before publication.

This was, obviously, a very sad story. You learn about Hayden’s suicide within the first few pages, and, despite not knowing the characters at this point, it still packs a punch. Can you imagine going into a room and finding your best friend unresponsive? I get teary just thinking about it!

As a music lover, I was very intrigued by this concept. I expected the songs to give him a message – you know, listening the lyrics or looking at the band’s history or something – but the playlist was more a way to get Sam to start looking at the people around him, the people who had something to do with Hayden’s suicide.

Each chapter title is a song off of Hayden’s playlist, but sometimes the song didn’t seem to match the chapter’s content. For example, “Pumped Up Kicks” (Foster the People) seemed a little boppy for a scene in the school counselor’s office. But then a few chapters later, I was sobbing over “Adam’s Song” (blink-182), so it all evened out.

I liked this book, but for some reason, I didn’t love it. I can’t figure it out! It sort of reminds me of Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James, where I had the same problem: I liked it, but apart from some really strong scenes, it didn’t deeply affect me.

There was something about the writing that seemed off; mostly I felt like Sam was talking “above his years” i.e. didn’t always sound 15-16. But I guess some people are like that.

I don’t know what else I can say without completely spoiling the story. I will say, though, that Astrid is a terrible person. I didn’t feel a strong connection to her to begin with and by the end, I thought she was just the worst. I also didn’t fully believe in the final interaction between Sam and Ryan (Hayden’s brother), but that’s because my instincts were more “what a tool” and less “how terrible, I understand his actions now”.

When I initially finished reading, I was all “but she never tells me why exactly Hayden commits suicide” until Ro pointed out that, sadly, there isn’t always a concrete reason. Which made me rethink (and eventually accept) it. Kinda like Sam does.

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