Thursday 14 May 2015

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Mental Health May Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle FalkoffPlaylist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff - A moving, poignant, compelling YA debut, as a 15-year-old boy struggles to understand his best friend's suicide through the list of songs he leaves behind.

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, 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.
From Goodreads.

I loved the sound of Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff the first time I read the blurb, but I've finished it feeling disappointed.

Hayden has died by suicide. There's no explanation why, just a USB stick he left with a note for his best mate Sam to listen and he'll understand. Except Sam has listened to the playlist over and over, and he's as clueless as he was the first time he listened to it. All he knows is that the last time he saw Hayden, they argued, and he's burdened with his guilt and anger. When Hayden's bullies are slowly taken down one by one, Sam starts to worry that perhaps he's doing it without realising, and with other strange goings on, like getting messages from Hayden's avatar on Gchat, Sam starts to worry about his mind. But he needs to know what led to Hayden taking his own life, and he's determined to find out.

I had several problems with Playlist for the Dead. Firstly, there's the fact that we don't really get to know much about Hayden. He's Sam's best friends, he's a geek, he likes to play Mage Warfare, but he doesn't like socialising with other people. That's all I know about him as a person. He was bullied, one of the bullies being his older brother, and his parents didn't really care about him. Despite what Sam says about these things, and what he saw, I never felt like I knew where Hayden's head was. There were flashbacks of conversations Sam and Hayden had, but there was nothing major about how he felt. As the story goes on, we find out about the events that led up to Hayden taking his life, and there were some awful things happening, but I didn't understand why he took his life. Not that it didn't make sense, but that there should have been more about how he was feeling, because I simply didn't get it. Perhaps Sam was the wrong narrator, because he didn't seem to know anything about what was happening with Hayden, so it makes it difficult. And the playlist... I really didn't get that at all. No idea what Hayden was thinking when he left it for Sam, no idea how it was supposed to help.

Then there's the fact that it was really slow. It took ages for the book to really get going, and when it did, trying to figure things out but getting nowhere until the end. I was so frustrated with the pace, I kept putting it down. I just wasn't really interested. And I simply didn't like Sam. I didn't warm to him, he annoyed me more often than not, and he was ridiculously obtuse. How he only started figuring certain things out towards the end that were obvious from the middle of the book, I don't know. There would be a whole realisation moment for him, and a face-palm moment for me.

And when we have all the details, I was left feeling... that's it? But as I said above, I think that's more to do with not know what was going through Hayden's head. It doesn't necessarily take much to push someone over the edge. I really think we needed to see that. And, despite his crappy life, there was no sign that he was depressed. It's important to me that we see that. We should see that. Depression shouldn't be hidden, and if he was depressed, then he hid it pretty damn well. That doesn't sit comfortably with me. Not even his best friend seeing something wasn't right - even I, as the reader, could see that something wasn't right. It bothers me, it really does, because it's scary. People with depression shouldn't hide it, they should seek help, and there's nothing covering that in this book. And if he didn't have depression, then I'm at a complete loss as to what I think about this book, I really am. Because then I don't get it at all.

Really not my cup of tea, unfortunately. This book just wasn't for me.

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Published: 29th January 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Michelle Falkoff on Twitter


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