Monday, 27 April 2015

'Playlist For The Dead' by Michelle Falkoff

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'Playlist For The Dead' is a YA contemporary novel focusing on how our protagonist, Sam, deals with the aftermath of his best friend Hayden's suicide. Sam finds Hayden's body, and with him is a USB drive and a note: "For Sam - Listen and you'll understand." Quite understandably, Sam is hit hard by the death of his only friend, withdrawing further and further away from society, until he meets a girl called Astrid, who changes his world for the better. 
I decided to read 'Playlist For The Dead' because it had been a while since I'd read a novel dealing with suicide, and the premise of this one sounded rather interesting. It definitely wasn't unique - I've heard of the idea of a playlist being used in multiple YA novels - but it seemed like something I'd enjoy. However, now I've finished it, I feel disappointed with how utterly bland it was. Predictable? Yes. Average? Yes! Boring? ...I hate to say this, but that would be a yes. 
Last year, I read a novel called 'The Beginning of Everything' by Robyn Schneider, in which the main character damages his leg, gets utterly depressed and gets dragged out of that depression by a girl, who he eventually breaks up with. Sadly, this was the exact same novel, except from instead of an injury causing the loss of a potential career, it was the loss of a friend. I didn't enjoy 'The Beginning of Everything', and I think perhaps that could have been some of the reason I didn't enjoy 'Playlist For The Dead' because there are too many parallels: most notably the premise and the fact that they're both debut novels (funny, too, that the covers are both blue). I couldn't get this connection out of my head throughout my reading, so that might have detracted from my enjoyment. 
I will admit that some of the goings on were rather intriguing: two of the guys who bullied Hayden for years are both targeted by a mysterious attacker, taking revenge for Hayden and for all of the disenfranchised teens who they've bullied and belittled over the years. But I managed to guess who the attacker was as soon as the first incident was reported, so I didn't get to enjoy any of the build up or the red herrings, and I thought that the dramatic reveal and Sam's (over)reaction were completely unnecessary, because I'm sure most other readers got it straight away too. 
But the main thing that irritated me was the idea of Archmage_Ged. Sam starts to hallucinate messages from someone using Hayden's screen name, so he believes that Hayden is contacting him from the other side, even though he states at multiple points that he knows this is impossible and he doesn't really believe it. The scenes make up the bulk of the novel, taking away from any of the good writing that Michelle Falkoff had done throughout - it just seems a bit of a gimmick, a grab to try and make people more interested, but it just made the book seem more childish and unable to deal with the topic seriously. I understand that sometimes people can hallucinate things like this - especially when overtired and grieving - but deciding to manifest it into a ginger wizard just made the attempt laughable. 
I'm sure this book is going to get up a big fan base, this just was not the book for me. I loved the playlist (especially the inclusions of Blink-182 and The Neighbourhood), and I'm sure I'm going to make it on Spotify and listen to it in the background while doing other things, but that's the only thing I'm really taking from this book. If you enjoy novels about suicide that deal with it in a respectful and tender way, you'll enjoy this one, but if you're looking for something that stands out in the field of other YA suicide novels, I'd suggest you continue on with your search. 

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