Playlist for the Dead

Playlist for the Dead

by Michelle Falkoff


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“A page-turner that combines genuine intrigue with heartbreak and desire.” —Holly Goldberg Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Thirteen Reasons Why, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Spectacular Now, Michelle Falkoff’s debut is an honest and gut-wrenching novel about loss, rage, what if feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself.

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.

“An absorbing and sensitive read.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Falkoff lightens the substantial topics of grief, bullying, and suicide with Sam’s engaging investigation.” —ALA Booklist

“Realistic and well-written. The strong characters, dialogue and the use of the playlist to structure the book make this a good pick for struggling readers.”  —School Library Journal

“Falkoff treats a difficult topic with delicacy and care.” —Publishers Weekly

“Truly powerful moments.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062310514
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 130,605
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range: 13 Years

About the Author

Michelle Falkoff is the author of Playlist for the Dead, Pushing Perfect, and Questions I Want to Ask YouHer 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

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Playlist for the Dead 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
donniedarkogirl More than 1 year ago
Having read 13 Reasons Why, I initially thought about that book when I read the synopsis for Playlist for the Dead. I did worry it would be too similar, but it stands on its own two feet with Sam's voice in narrating, the mystery surrounding Hayden's death, and the things Sam learns about himself as well as Hayden. Playlist for the Dead is not only about suicide but also friendship, growing up, bullying, and finding your own path amid the pressures from parents, school, and even your friends.  The story surrounding Hayden's suicide is messy and complicated, and that's how suicide is. There's never just one reason why a person feels that's their only option; instead there's a myriad of them, and sometimes one event can push that person off the ledge much like the saying about the straw that broke the camel's back.  I felt the weight of Sam's guilt settle over me as I read. That was realistically done and as Sam unravels the mystery, he finds more and more people who are also secretly blaming themselves and wrestling with their own guilt, wishing they could have done something to change the outcome. This is one of those times where you wish badly for a rewind button. I believe Hayden felt hopeless about all the bad things happening in his life and didn't have any fight left in him to keep trying for the good. Topped off with the events the night of the party, that was his last straw. Obviously he must have been thinking about suicide as a way out for a while - people don't just wake up one day and kill themselves. It's a slow progression downhill with a lot of time spent struggling, and thinking about all of this just made me feel so much empathy for Hayden.  I decided to make the playlist on Spotify and listen to it all the way through then listened to each song for each chapter while I read. I wanted to get into Hayden's mindset when he had made the list. Most of the songs are ones I love already, and I swear I was dissecting lyrics like crazy! I loved the references to Star Wars and especially Donnie Darko along with other geekery sprinkled throughout the story. Geek speak links directly to this girl's heart!  No, the answers weren't found in the playlist but it's what led Sam to new experiences and new people. I think it was also a way for Hayden to reach out to Sam after he knew he'd be gone, a way to say good-bye and show him there was more going on with him than Sam realized. I think Hayden wanted Sam to understand how important it is to listen to people, which Sam learns along the way. We all want to be heard. We want to be understood. We don't want to be lonely. I ended up being torn on how many stars to rate Playlist for the Dead. What it came down to for me was I felt something was missing from the story, something I can't quite put my finger on, but it's what made the difference between my feeling that this is a four star read rather than a five star. I do know one part of the mystery could have been wrapped up better. I thought there was so much potential there that wasn't used. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Take_Me_AwayPH More than 1 year ago
  As contemps are my favorite genre, I knew that this was a must read. Even more so because it wasn't just a cute, fluffy one, but one about something much deeper.  "Look, it's true that I think there are a lot of people to blame for all this, but I'm one of them. [...] And it's not my job to decide who should pay." (ARC)      Hayden and Sam have it hard. Not only are they bullied by outsiders, but the bullies that target them are actually Hayden's brothers and his friends. There's really no escaping them. Hayden eventually has enough and commits suicide. Sam is upset deeply by it, as it is him who finds his body, but starts to question everything he knows about Hayden. He finds a playlist with Hayden along with a weird note.  "They'd never deserved him, his family." (ARC)      What I liked most about this book was the mystery aspect. There is someone going around and hurting the people that wronged Hayden. But the cool part is the way it's written. I can't tell you exactly how without giving away spoilers, but the way it all ties in, is really interesting. The culprit who is behind it isn't easy to figure out wither. This does bring light to all the people who wronged him. Everyone that should have been on his side turned bad in some way. For awhile I was hating that there were only a few people in the book that WASN'T a cruel person. It made me really question kids and their motives. In the end, I couldn't guess who the culprit was because it was the person I most expected. It's funny how that never really works out lol  "For a guy with one friend, his funeral was pretty crowded." (ARC)      I also liked Falkoff's writing style. I haven't read too many books from a boy's POV, but this one seemed solid. Especially since Sam was so hurt. He was such an open, honest character and I felt so bad for him. Her writing really made me want to swallow him in a hug!  "[...] I hadn't factored in that everyone has a breaking point." (ARC)      The thing that brought this book over the top for me was the playlist. Most of the songs were new to me so I went ahead and listened to some of them while I read the chapter it went with. It really tied the story together and heleped me match some of the events up with things that happen in the chapter and then in the song. I felt that it really connected me to the story.  "[He] was a lot smarter than people gave him credit for wasn't he? [...] Nice that someone finally got it. "Way smarter.'" (ARC)      Bullying is still happening out there and things like this fictional story happen entirely too much. What happened with Hayden could happen to anyone that we know and that's pretty scary. This book features a relevant topic in a way that will leave any music/book lover satisfied.
SecretBookshelf More than 1 year ago
I recently read an ARC from edelweiss for Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff.  It was amazing! I loved it!  I wouldn't be at all surprised if this doesn't become an instant hit.  It had all the qualities needed for a fantastic book, and I think that people will really like it. It reminded me a bit of Paper Towns by John Green, except it was much more intense.   Anyway, here's the cover: The Cover: The cover shows Sam, our protagonist, listening to Hayden's playlist with Astrid.  I particularly like the sentence at the top of the cover, "You never really know someone until you listen."  It really fits this book, and I'm glad they put it on the cover.  The Description: Sam found Hayden his best, and only, friend dead one morning.  He had committed suicide and all he left Sam to help him comprehend this was a playlist of songs and a note: For Sam- Listen and you'll understand.  But that's not enough for Sam as he attempts to uncover the events that led up to Hayden's suicide.  The mystery unravels a little further with every page and every person Sam meets, including a girl, Astrid, who claimed to know Hayden before he died.  Song after song go by on the playlist as Sam learns more and more about his friend and even more about himself.  It was partially a mystery, love story, thought-provoking, and grief book all in one. My Review: I loved it! It had everything that you could possibly want in a book.  It was deeply thoughtful, funny, heartbreaking, and beautiful all at the same time.  Playlist for the Dead is kind of similar to both Perks of Being a Wallflower and Paper Towns.  It falls under the same categories as those books and cause you to think about the same type of issues that the above books do.  It was also organized in a really neat way.  Instead of chapter titles, it had song titles from Hayden's playlist that corresponded to each chapter.  They fit the story perfectly and really added to the experience of reading this book.  I strongly, strongly suggest listening to the songs during or after each chapter.  You might even find a new song/band that you like! The characters were superb.  I felt really connected to the main character, Sam.  That might have been mainly because it was written in first person, but he was a really developed character who went through changes throughout the book.  Character development definitely occurred to most of the established characters.  Everyone was very complex and different.  They were also written to be very relatable to.  Even the characters that I am nothing like, let's say Ryan or Eric, I found connections to by the end of the book.  Even while set in a normal school setting, I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout entire chunks of the story.  The plot was interesting and kept me hooked.  Every few pages, we would learn a little more about the circumstances leading up to Hayden's death.  I was constantly surprised by the next installment of the story! I'd highly recommend reading Playlist for the Dead to anyone looking for a new book to read! Phrase: Metallica T-shirt
maddieshullman 11 months ago
Michelle Falkoff’s book, Playlist for the Dead, was filled with mystery, constantly leaving me on the edge of my seat. The main character, Sam, and his best friend Hayden have life hard; they are bullied by Hayden’s older brother and his friends. Eventually, not able to take the hate anymore, Hayden commits suicide. Sam doesn’t know what to think of this, and puts the blame all on himself. All Hayden left to explain why he had done this, was a playlist of songs. A list of songs Hayden thought would explain it all, but a list of songs Sam had no idea what to do with. I constantly felt the weight of Sam’s guilt over me as I read. I really enjoyed how Hayden found other characters throughout the book, who had felt a similar guilt he had. He finds many other people who are also secretly blaming themselves, and wishing they could have done something differently to change the outcome. This allowed Sam to take some of the weight off his shoulders, which helped relieve the weight I had felt. One thing I loved about this book was the mystery aspect of it. I loved the way the story was told because Falkoff writes her book in a style where the culprit is nearly impossible to figure out. During the book, there is someone who is going around and hurting the ones who had bullied Hayden, but no one can figure out who. Falkoff’s style of writing makes the mystery both interesting and entertaining. Usually, because the reader can see the whole picture, it is easy to realize who the culprit is before the character does. However, in this book, I felt the culprit was who I would of least expected, and that made the story more enjoyable. I also found the story being told in Sam’s point of view very interesting because I was able to understand exactly how he felt and why. Especially because Sam was so hurt and affected by Hayden’s suicide, I felt the story being told in his point of view was crucial. This way of storytelling kept me very interested and having lots of sympathy for the characters. Most of all, I felt lot’s of empathy for Hayden. Being bullied is hard to live with, especially when the bully is your older brother. I think Hayden felt hopeless about all the bad things happening in his life and didn't have any fight left in him to keep fighting for the good. There must of been many events leading up to his suicide that the reader doesn’t know about, and last night’s party must of been his last straw. I felt Michelle Falkoff’s idea to leave the playlist was very clever because it tied the whole story together. Although the answers were not found in the playlist, Sam found an opportunity to put his best friends suicide beside for a little and make new friends and new experiences. I think the playlist also brought some happiness in Sam’s life because he thought this was a way to pay his respects and say goodbye to Hayden. I felt that this story taught a really valuable lesson of how important it is to listen to others. Sam learns this throughout the way, and applies it to later experiences in his life. Overall, this is a really good book that I recommend reading. After all, bullying is still a really common issue in today’s society, and Playlist for the Dead did a good job of bringing more awareness to this topic to help prevent future issues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
smg5775 More than 1 year ago
Not a book to be read quickly. This must be savored. A 16-year old commits suicide and leaves his friend a playlist to discover why he committed suicide. Listen to the song at the beginning of each chapter and see how it fits. Listen more than once. Make sure you know what is being sung. I only knew one of the songs but found a lot of them I enjoyed. Listening caused me to read slower but I wanted to be able to put the clues together to figure it out as Sam (the friend) was figuring it out. I liked Sam. Started out hating some of the characters while loving others I met throughout the story. The ending changed my feelings towards some of the characters but not all. Some are just jerks and you can't change that. Some seemed cool but had feet of clay. Others were hurt just as much by the popular kids but managed not to lose their integrity. Read this book for the experience.
BoundWithWords More than 1 year ago
• The mystery: Sam, our main instead of locking himself on his room and crying forever and ever decides to find out why Hayden killed himself. Also some *things* start to happen making it even more urgent for Sam's to figure out what the hell happened and how does it influences on Hayden's death and what happened next. I have to say that this part was my favorite thing in the book, I always loved detective novels and while this one isn't exactly that the mystery does pick up around 60% into the book and I couldn't put it down trying to find out everything. • The overall positive tone: I usually love books that make me ugly sob and make my heart hurt but I also like when books can passe a positive message, especially books that are for teenages -- suicide & depression is now (unfortunately) a common thing, I think most teens know someone who tried to kill themselves or committed suicide or suffer through depression or event them passed through theses things, so it's important to have books like this one out there, saying that it's going to get better even when it doesn't look like it right now. • Mr. Beaumont: Can I get an amen with the last chapter when Sam says Mr. Beaumont has been helping him get through the year? Mr. Beaumont is the school therapist and I just found SO important that books about depression/suicide acknowledge the fact that it's more than okay to have a professional help when getting through hard times. I get really pissed when books with characters that clearly need professional help doesn't even make that as an option (and unfortunately is the case with about 90% of the books about depression that I already read on the young adult gender). • The songs: THERE ARE SO MANY GOOD SONGS IN HERE! So many that I didn't know and so many that I already loved, definitely read this book with your spotify/iTunes library near you. The things that I wasn't as head-over-heels: • The romance: I never got Sam and Astrid's romance! It isn't instalove but there is a lot of "You get me like no one else" and "I never felt a connection like this before" and I never saw this deep connection, idk maybe it was because it was Sam's first crush but still every time they talked I rolled my eyes. • The characters: This was my biggest issue, despite that we learn a lot of the personal lives of most of the characters that are related to Hayden's death I still never felt like they are fleshed out enough, the only character that felt real was Sam and this was probably because it was on first person. This turned the story more distancing than it had to be and made my attachment to it be less emotional - still, I recommend it to all readers who like realistic fiction, and specially for the ones that love geeky references and a good song taste.
Luci_Mazzella More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend.
romancemistress More than 1 year ago
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but a few glossed over things already mentioned in other reviews (Mom not commenting on the black eye (!), and one aspect of the mystery being so casually explained away in a paragraph at the  end) decided it for me. I did enjoy the book and think Falkoff gave a good, multi-layered examination of high school bullying as we even see that they are human, too. Nice also to have a YA book that is boy-centric as a good percentage of the genre seems designed for girls.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this just like Thirteen Reasons Why?
MariahEllis More than 1 year ago
PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD is a very different and interesting real life read.  Michelle Falkoff provides a song at the beginning of every chapter which helps set the mood and give the reader more insight to the story.  Because this book is centered around the playlist Hayden left for Sam, it was great that Falkoff provided the title and artist for every single song so that you are able to listen along.  In a way, this makes the book interactive, which instantly adds positive points for creativity.  Listening to each track as it coincides with the chapter really helped me immerse myself in the story.  While most of the songs fit the chapters perfectly, there were a few that fell flat.  Chapter 18 had the absolute best song/chapter combination.  It was so beautiful, and I honestly think if I had simply read the chapter without the music I would not have enjoyed it as much.   The characters were not very memorable.  I never found myself attached or really even just liking any of them.  Because Sam's best friend killed himself, I was ready to see some new relationships form, but this never happened.  I do wish Sam's mother had played a tad bit of a bigger part too.  She seemed like she genuinely cared about Sam, despite how busy she was trying to raise a family.  At one point though, Sam had a black eye, and even though there were interactions between him and his mom during this time, Sam's mom never noticed his eye at all.  No matter how much a mother is rushing around, I think she would notice if her son had a black eye. Quite a few readers do consider PLAYLSIT FOR THE DEAD to be somewhat of a mystery.  I would not categorize it as this.  Throughout the book, there are big questions such as why Hayden killed himself, why was the only thing he left behind a playlist, and what is happening to his brother and brother's best friends, but there is no suspense or mystery about it.  In fact, not all of the questions are even answered.  We do find out why Hayden committed suicide and what is going on with his brother, but as to why he left the playlist for Sam to find?  No clear answer is ever given, and this drove me crazy.  I was also not satisfied when I found out what was going on with Hayden's brother and best friends.  The ending with the big reveal felt very rushed, awkward, and weird.  It seemed like the author had built up all of these questions, but then did not know how to answer them, so she just threw some stuff at the reader and called it good. All in all, reading PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD is not a waste of time; however, if you are looking for a book that is going to leave an impression on you and make you feel satisfied, you may want to find something different.  If you do pick this book up, I highly suggest listening along to the songs as you read the chapters.  The accompanying music is what made me enjoy PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD.