Playlist for the dead by Michelle Falkoff is an American novel. Sam, the main protagonist, is a self-confessed geek, music fan, comic fanatic and computer game enthusiast.
Hayden was Sam’s best friend. In fact, he was pretty much his only friend. Sam discovers Hayden’s body at the start, along with a suicide note instructing him to listen to a playlist.
The plot reads like a detective novel, as Sam pieces together the events that led to his friend’s suicide, simultaneously coping with feelings of anger, guilt and grief along the way.
Considering Sam is a loner, the narrative is full of characters and events. Much of it centres on life at high school and the new friendships he gradually makes.
Sam blames himself for Hayden’s death. He is resistant to counselling and responds better to his sister and her boyfriend helping him out. The sibling relationship was realistic, I enjoyed how it developed.
Raised in a single parent family, Sam’s Mum is hard-working and can’t be around as much she’d like. He lives on the poorer side of town and has grown up in a relaxed homely environment with freedom to be himself. It contrasted with Hayden’s experience of harsh parenting in a coldly clinical designer home on the richer side of town. Hayden was bullied by his older brother Ryan and his two friends- ‘the bully trifecta.’ Odd things begin to happen to the bully trifecta as someone (or something) dishes out some twisted payback.
The plot is written chronologically, beginning with Hayden’s death. Flashbacks happen when characters recount or reflect on past events. It’s well paced and kept me trying to guess who was up to what.
There is sadness within the pages, I think it’s inevitable given the topic, but it’s woven into the mystery of what happened. Written in the first person, I felt as though I got to know Sam (and Hayden) and empathised with them both of them. Even the bullies show a human side and contend with issues of their own.
This could be a great book for alternative rock/indie music fans, or comic and pc game enthusiasts (Mage Warfare), as it is laden with references throughout. Equally, it’s enjoyable without having to know anything about any of these things. Playlist for the dead is well thought out and very plausible. Essentially, the message that suicide can be an avoidable tragedy is poignantly achieved.