Published by Harper Teen on January 27, 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
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.Amazon •
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.
Mature-Content Rating: Language, Underage Drinking, Suicide, Mention of Homophobia, Violence
“Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was finding people surprising these days. It made me wonder whether everyone had these secret lives, these aspects of themselves that didn’t match who they seemed to be.”
Where to begin with this? For starters, don’t worry about the music. I did listen to some of the songs but it’s really not necessary to follow the story. The music has more to do with Sam and Hayden’s relationship than the actual storyline. The songs on the playlist are meant to help Sam understand why Hayden committed suicide, but after listening to it several times the songs only confuse him.
During the story Sam finds that Hayden had other friends he didn’t know about and secrets he was keeping even from his best friend. The bullying everyone was aware of, but slowly though-out the book Sam is introduced to new characters and new perspectives of the fate filled night at the party.
What I really loved about this book is that it’s psychologically light, but layered with the emotions those that are left behind face: guilt, blame, anger, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness. It could be possible that everyone and no one is to blame for Hayden’s death. The narrative by Sam also made me able to really understand his feelings at any point in the story. Just how a passage was written would leave me just as frustrated or confused as Sam. Bravo.
What I didn’t like is, like in so many other YA novels, the complete lack of parent interaction. It seems like a go-to fix-it for YA novelists if you need parents out of the way, then the kid has a no-show dad and mother who is either a) a waitress at a 24/7 dinner or b) a nurse with odd hours.
Overall, Playlist for the Dead is a great realistic fiction novel from this debut author. I recommend it for anyone who likes psychological YA fiction that’s on the tragic side.