Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: Playlist for the Dead

Playlist for the Dead
By Michelle Falkoff
Expected publication January 27, 2015 by HarperTeen

Sam can't believe it, but his best friend just killed himself. He left behind a lot of questions and a playlist with a note: "For Sam - listen and you'll understand." But the playlist just seems to bring more questions. Sam can't help but feel that Hayden's death is his fault - and he soon discovers he's not the only person who feels this way. Can Sam uncover the truth about what happened that night and find a way to move on?

It seems like more and more YA contemporary realistic novels are being published, and I think it's a great thing. Teens need to be exposed to a variety of stories that highlight experiences both similar and different to their own. I spotted this title available as an e-galley and figured I'd give it a shot. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work for me.

This is nothing against this particular book, nor against books about suicide in general, but I just found the plot of this one a bit tiresome. Instead of feeling like Hayden's story, this definitely felt like Sam's story. Those stories are important - survivors of suicide, those who are impacted when someone they love takes their own life. I just didn't connect with Sam - I found him irritating. I wanted to know more about Hayden. I also think the story got dragged down in romance. I was more interested in the story of Sam and Hayden's relationship and didn't care about the developing relationship between Sam and Astrid. While it was ultimately important to the story of Hayden's suicide, it felt like it detracted from the true story much of the time.

And that's part of what irritates about the cover of this book - it chooses to focus on the romance instead of the friendship, showing silhouettes of what we can assume are Sam and Astrid, instead of Sam and Hayden. What is wrong with writing a book about the friendship between two boys and how that changes when one boy commits suicide? We need books that aren't afraid to plumb the depths of male friendships. In a different story, I would have appreciated the developing romance and how confusing it might be for someone mired in grief. But in this story, I just didn't care.

I think that's my problem with this book as a whole - I never connected with it emotionally. I didn't care about anything that was happening - and for a book that's dealing with teen suicide, I think that's a problem. The story just fell flat for me. I also thought the resolution was extremely predictable, particularly the revelation of who's behind the mystery attacks. I just expected more from this story.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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