Book Review: Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Book Summary:

There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s 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. To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn’t as reliable as he thought. And it might only be by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he’ll 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 The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now, Michelle Falkoff’s debut novel is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, and what if feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself.

Michelle Falkoff is also the author of Playlist for the Dead. Her fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently serves as director of communication and legal reasoning at Northwestern University School of Law. Visit her online at

The Review:

I ordered this book as it kept turning up on
my “based on your browsing history” section on Amazon. No, it wasn’t because I
was researching thoroughly depressing books or books about mental health. It
was because I read a lot of Young Adult novels and this particular book was on
a 32% discount. So I took a chance and I bought it.
While I loved the back and forth narration of
the story, and getting thoroughly involved with Sam and Hayden’s lives, I was a
little disappointed to not get all the answers that was burning me up. But I
realized what the author, Michelle Falkoff was driving at. That bad things
happen to the best of us and some of us learn to live with it, some of us
explode and some of us come through. There is no explanation as to who decides
to go down which road. And in real, there are no answers. It’s only fiction
that every single thing needs to make perfect sense.
I know a lot readers have complained about
how the story does not delve deeper into the lives of the characters, how there
is no real character development. In fact when I down to type this post, a part
of me was pretty disappointed by the book and wanted to write about that. But
the other part of me, the one who knows that life can flip you over like a
pancake whenever it wants without any further notice and flip back just as
well, knows that’s exactly what Playlist for the Dead was aiming for.
That it’s okay to not have all the answers.
It’s okay to begrudgingly accept the hand that’s been dealt by Fate. It’s okay
to not know your little world like the back of your hand. Sometimes when things
happen we’re left to grasp at straws. We could look for the needle in the
haystack but we have no idea what the stupid needle looks like in the first
place! And that’s exactly how Sam feels when his best friend Hayden kills
himself. Even though they had been each other’s best friends, they had kept
their own set of secrets which ultimately lead to the events of the novel. What
Sam has been left with is a playlist of songs which claims he would understand
what was going on in Hayden’s head.
But this playlist is the needle. Sam has no
idea what to make of the songs, but readers such as myself get introduced to
quite a few amazing tracks and artists in the process. I cannot say I enjoyed
reading the book because teen suicides are not something to enjoy. But I liked
how the issue has been handled and this book is more for the friend left
affected by a friend’s suicide. It won’t help teenagers who are already at
risk. But would help their friends identify them if they are at risk.



In a nutshell, this book tried a unique take
on an age-old problem. It’s definitely worth checking out.
This review first appeared at BIBLIOTHEQUE.

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