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I Belong

Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Playlist for the DeadTitle: Playlist for the Dead

Author: Michelle Falkoff

Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages

ISBN-10: 006231050X (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062310507 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Zed


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.

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, Michelle Falkoff’s debut novel is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, and what if feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself.

Quick & Dirty: A suicide playlist.

Opening Sentence: All my years of watching TV made me think it was possible you could find a dead body and not know it until you turned the person over and found the bullet hole or stab wound or whatever.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Playlist for the Dead is told from Sam’s perspective; a teenager whose best friend has committed suicide and he’s the one who found him. This was a decent read, especially since May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The story dives into Hayden’s deep rooted depression, which ultimately results in his demise.

Despite the core subject of suicide and the events that led to it, what I found more interesting was reading the story from the best friend’s perspective. Sam feels responsible for Hayden’s death, especially as their last conversation was in the form of an argument.

Who needed a group? What was so bad about having one best friend, anyway?
I missed Hayden as much as I had since he died. I missed him so much I finally didn’t even feel bad thinking about it; I just sank into it, let it roll over me in waves. It was the closes I’d come to crying and if I hadn’t been like two feet away from a field full of people I mostly didn’t know or couldn’t stand, I might have just said fuck it and started bawling.

In this book, each chapter begins with a song from the playlist Hayden left Sam; basically his suicide note. Sam listens to the playlist almost obsessively trying to figure out why Hayden resorted to such a measure. I enjoyed listening to each of these songs via YouTube as I started each chapter and found that, despite the overall ominous taste, I quite enjoyed a few! It was an interesting way to engage the reader, that’s for sure.

The only concern I had with this story was how similar it was to some of the YA books I’ve already read, in terms of depression, suicide and the resulting guilt. I feel like this subject has been explored a lot recently. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, we need greater awareness around mental health, but at the same time it’s becoming a leeetle repetitive.

“See?” Rachel said. “Don’t judge a book by its cover, Mom.”
“Guilty as charged,” she said.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was finding people surprising thse days. It made me wonder whether everyone had these secret lives, these aspects of themselves that didn’t match who they seemed to be.

The moral I took from this story was how many lives a suicide can affect and it’s not just the immediate family and closest friends that are hurt. It also highlighted the seriousness of depression and how important it is to try and listen to other people; sometimes even the smallest act of kindness can help. Sam, Astrid and a lot of other people felt responsible for Hayden’s death and the truth is that they all had a part to play but there’s no singular person that can be blamed. Sometimes it’s best to just accept what has happened and live your life the best way you can, and try to positively engage with as many people as possible. At least, that’s what I’m going to try and do.

Notable Scene:

“Can you describe your friendship to me at all?” he asked gently.

What did he expect me to say? That we were both socially awkward misfits? That we’d saved each other from loneliness for a really long time, and now that was over? “We were friends. What else am I supposed to say?”


FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Playlist for the Dead. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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