Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

A book with a heavy music element? Yes please!

playlistI can be pretty picky about what teen books I read. Which seems a little silly to me sometimes because I’m pretty sure most of the books I avoid I only do so because they sound too much like whiny teen drama as opposed to…not whiny teen drama? I don’t know. What I’m getting at is that all the teen books I read do have a heavy drama element but that fact wasn’t splashed all over the back cover of the book, thus making it an immediate turn off. Kind of weird, but it’s how I roll.

So! This book deals with issues like teen suicide and bullying and loss. Pretty heavy stuff, but I think Michelle Falkoff did a very good job of not undercutting the seriousness while still keeping the book on the lighter side. And all of Sam’s (the main character) reactions and responses to the death of his best friend were realistic and relatable (that’s a lot of ‘r’ words).

The whole story was very sad and at the same time very heart-warming and insightful. It’s a bit odd, but that seems to be the way with tragedy. It fractures your life and rips things away from you, and it’s painful and confusing and there’s lots of anger. But once you get through all of that, you stitch your life back together into something else, something beautiful and hopefully you’ve come out the other side having learned something you didn’t know before.

I agree with Sam when he said, “I’ll never get over this.” Some things are always going to stay with us and sometimes the hurt will come back. I don’t think I’d ever ask someone to “get over” the death of a close friend or family member. The important thing to do after something like that is to simply move forward.

Moving away from the heavy stuff, I really enjoyed the musical aspect of the story. All Hayden leaves for his friend is a playlist. Each chapter is headed with one of the songs. I knew several of them and have made a note to check out the ones I wasn’t familiar with. I liked that an overarching theme of the book was to listen, something I think many people could be better at. I also liked, for more personal reasons, that this book coupled a tough moment in life with music. I think, at times, music can be a better tool for healing than people can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to The Shins “It’s Only Life” on repeat for the next 20 minutes.

~Ren

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