Playlist for the Dead
Harper Teen, January 2015
“Lots of people want to be invisible. Maybe they can even think they can pretend to be. But someone always sees.”
Rating: 3/5 stars
Sam and Hayden is like reading Darren Bennett and Eric Lederer all over again in The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To. And the more I read about it, the more it seems to be true: the comics, the songs, all that geeky stuff. But Playlist for the Dead is more straightforward: dead geek, secrets, clues, unraveling of secrets via the clues (though the clues did not help really).
“There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead.”
Playlist for the Dead is about Sam’s quest in finding out the reason for his best friend Hayden’s suicide from a playlist he left for him to listen to, to dwell into the meaning of the lyrics of the songs for him to understand, to discover the truth, and finally to move on.
“For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.”
Amongst the 20 plus songs mentioned, I only know two or three of them. As a friend pointed out, I am not cool that way. I played two of those songs I did not know as of this writing. Correct me if I am wrong, but the songs were useless, I mean they did not have much bearing on the story as a whole, except for the fact that those were used as theme songs for each chapter. Is it as if the author, Michelle Falkoff, created the story based on the lyrics of the songs mentioned, but I am sure it is not the case. Anyway, Falkoff missed the opportunity of making a remarkable story of using the lyrics as clues and take off from that, instead of the opposite.
Still the title is cool, appropriate, if only to have the playlist steer the direction of the story, of each chapters serving as the background music. But for all its intent and purposes, Hayden, I am not sure, and sorry for saying so, that the playlist are appropriate clues that would tell why you committed suicide, and Sam kind of agreed on to this.
“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”
Midway through reading the book I thought the story was kind of cliché and I was starting to dislike it. I remember thinking that it would need a major turnaround for me to consider this book phenomenal. I mean, it turns out that Sam was dating a cheerleader, albeit a retired one. If this kind of thing is happening in real life please come forward and tell your story. It seemed that Sam is another Colin Singleton. Also, I am not a fan of bullies being given reasons why they are what they are, as if legitimatizing all the bad things they’re doing, but I guess that is what the real world is.
I was not impressed about how the scenes, the secrets, were untangled. I was hoping for a more shocking, more creative explanations. Maybe my expectations with this book were high.
Though the 400 or less words I have written about this book are kind of negative, don’t get me wrong, the book is good without even trying, the setting so familiar that you would not have a hard time reading it. The characters were intriguing and their stories so common it is mesmerizing. Even if you’re not a geek, into music or have played Mage Warefare (I was lost whenever it was mentioned), you will definitely enjoy reading this one, listening to each songs, delving into the meaning behind the lyrics and wondering if it is our story, what songs would fit with it, is it Hayden’s playlist? Or Sam’s? Or you might rather want to create your own.
“Embarrassing for me, I mean,” she said, and I exhaled. “The thing is, we’ve hung out a few times now, and it’s been really fun—I don’t think I get along with anyone as well as I get along with you.”
“Me too,” I said, waiting for the “but.”
“But”—To hear it out loud made my stomach drop—“you’ve had tons of opportunities to make a move, and yet nothing. Am I totally reading this situation wrong? See what I mean about embarrassing myself?” It was true; she was blushing furiously. Except that was not at all what I’d expected.
“You wanted me to make a move on you?” I finally managed to say, after metaphorically falling off my stool and picking myself up off the filthy linoleum floor.
Of course Mr. Peterson chose that moment to plunk a giant basket of fries right in between us. “Ketchup?”
“And pepper,” Astrid said.
“You put pepper on your fries?”
“On the ketchup.”
“What are you doing?” I asked. “You’re really going to get up there and talk about what a great brother you were? When everyone here knows the truth? You were at that party just like me. You could have stopped things. You should have protected him, not made everything worse.”
Ryan opened his mouth, but before he could get the words out Jason shoved me so hard I banged into one of the pews. I saw people looking at us even as I tried—and failed—to keep from falling down.
“You’re really going to go after Ryan at his brother’s funeral?” Jason hissed. I’d underestimated his strength; I’d been more worried about the enormous Trevor, who was six and a half feet tall with the thick neck I’d learned was common to steroid users—kids at school called him Roid Floyd, but only behind his back. He wasn’t someone I was looking to get into a fight with. Especially not here.
I stood up as carefully as I could. My arms would be covered in bruises tomorrow, but I wasn’t about to let the bully trifecta see me fall down. “You’re a fucking hypocrite,” I said to Ryan. “And someday you’ll get what’s coming to you.”
“I’d always seen him as cryptic, but really, I knew how much of it was shyness.”
“Loneliness is a thing that has weight, and it gets heavier over time.”
From the Critics:
“The mystery within the story is well put together and makes for a more intriguing read which pulls you in different directions as well as letting you into the mind of the bullied.” –The Guardian.
“The mixture of grief, anger, and guilt that Sam works through is realistic and well written, and his reactions to Hayden’s music choices further illuminates not only his struggle but also how their friendship was beginning to change. The characters and concept work better than the plot—it gets an all-loose-ends-tied-up treatment at the end.” –School Library Journal