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.
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. – Goodreads
This is one of the few books I went into knowing nothing. I started it on a plane, on airplane mode on my phone. This means I was unable to read goodreads reviews before hand and I loved it. I loved that I went into this book unaware of anything, Even really what the book was about. What I was unaware of, even from the title, was how heartbreaking this novel was going to be. I had to put it down multiple times because my heart was going out to Sam and Hayden.
Sam and Hayden are not the popular boys at school, they are very much on the outskirts, yet when Hayden dies, everyone comes out and acts like they and Hayden were BFFs, instead of being the people that tormented them. Sam has enough of this phoniness and has no problem calling them out on it. But when it comes down to it, all Sam wants back is his best friend and I don’t blame him. I’ve lost friends, not through dying, but through life changes and that is bad enough. But through death? I don’t even want to think about it.
Hayden has left Sam a playlist of music and tells him that he’ll understand. What Sam finds though are not the answers he ever planned on finding out. Part of this is because there will never be answers for the questions he has and the other part was because Sam had to painfully grow up. What Sam also doesn’t expect is to become friends with Astrid, or what secrets she has in her life. Astrid tries to break Sam out of his box.
Don’t get all judgmental because they’re into different stuff than you are. I’ll tell you the same thing I told Hayden: I bet you have more in common with some of them than you think.–18% eARC
What Sam doesn’t know for the longest time, is how Astrid and Hayden became friends, because didn’t Hayden and Sam tell each other everything? It also doesn’t help that everyone in Sam’s life wants to talk to him about everything and anything and Sam doesn’t want to talk. He wants Hayden back and things to be back to normal, although obviously things will never be normal again. Even the school guidance counselor, that is a seemingly nice guy, wants to talk to him. Gives him permission to grieve and that sets Sam off even more. Then Sam realizes it’s because they’re worried he may shoot up the school. Something that has never entered his mind.
When Sam hears that one of Hayden’s bullies have become tormented himself he rages and lashes out at anyone who feels sorry for the guy
“Poor boy?” I said, feeling myself getting angry yet again. “He was a total bully who treated Hayden like crap. I’m not sorry.”–26% eARC
Of course this doesn’t win points with his mother, but in its own way, it helps Sam and his sister become closer. It also helps Sam become closer to Astrid, who’s friendship begins to mean a lot to him during this tough time. Astrid is a really good listener and knows more than she leads on, which is actually helpful for Sam. He wants someone to listen without judgement and that is the type of friend he has in Astrid. What he keeps to himself is that someone named ArchmageGod is gchating with him and it’s not Hayden, because Hayden is still dead. What ArchmageGod constantly references however is the fact that they are helping to knock out the bullies that tormented Hayden.
Sam also spends a lot of the book looking back on his time with Hayden. Could he have saved him? It goes back to the unanswered questions.
I wish I’d realized how important those fights would be to me. Maybe I’d have realized how much fun they were.–42% eARC
I enjoyed this book much more than this review is letting on. It’s a hard book to review. Playlists for the Dead is not an easy book to read. It’s hard and it hurts, but I don’t regret it and I believe everyone should read it, because although painful, it is good.