Release Date - January 27, 2015
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.Playlist For The Dead is a novel that had a lot of potential. A novel that seemed like it should shatter your heart into a million pieces. However, it's one that never quite reaches that potential. A novel that tries to be everything at once. It's a mystery, an 'issues' book, and even adds in a little magical realism into the plot. However, I felt it stretched itself thin and the end result was being not quite successful at any of these aspects.
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.
The music, and playlist from the title, ends up being a rather quiet footnote to the story. Sam listens to it, and some of the songs are discussed but otherwise it ends up being unimportant to the overall plot. It is an element that could have been removed from the story and it would have resulted in the exact same story being told. It would have retained what it was attempting to say and left me with the same feeling. No insight is gleamed from it, at least for me, and it doesn't open a window into Sam's mindset. Perhaps that is the point - you can never know what someone is truly thinking and therefore the playlist remains a mystery. If that is the case, I didn't feel that was properly developed or showcased.
Sam's voice was the most resonate thing in the story. It felt authentic and like the author knew that character and what he should be. The secondary characters, however, felt under developed. Astrid, in particular, felt like little more than a manic pixie dream girl who was there only to further Sam's story. Her, and Eric had flickers of characterization that could have made them fascinating. Hayden comes to life through Sam and he was the closest thing to a secondary character that I felt was elevated in some manner.
The idea that people are not just one thing is threaded throughout the novel. People can always surprise you and have hidden parts to them. They can transform into someone you barely know, even if you think you have them figured out. It's a important message, especially for the target age group. Even the side story lines tie into the overall message in the end. Sam seeking help from a guidance counselor to navigate his anger and grief was another plot point that resonated and was entirely welcome.
The novel begins to say something about violence but never really goes anywhere with it. Sam's comment that his video game is a thinly veiled excuse to be violent and we see violence as part of the story itself. That plot point isn't really expanded upon other than some thin commentary. The magical realism plot also unfinished and wrapped rather quickly in the end. All the plot points never really come together as one cohesive story, or get a satisfying ending. I don't even mean a happy ending, just a ending to brings everything together.
A novel that, sadly, didn't come together the way I hoped it would. There is plenty of potential here, but the threads never came together in the end. A few plot points left hanging and some important elements that were not examined to their fullest made me feel disconnected from the novel and it's characters.