Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff

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Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: Playlist For the Dead is a valiant effort dealing with a difficult subject for a début novel. Falkoff cleverly uses the motif of music to link to teen emotions but somehow the story doesn't quite gel. The love story element is well written and even quite sweet in places but it is not enough to completely engage the reader. There is a lack of cohesion with the chapter headings and the text. Sadly, although the book has a worthy theme, it is not a compulsive read but rather more one to dip in and out of.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 356 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780008110666

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This book markets itself as a mystery with a bit of a love story thrown in but it is more than that. It is about loss, anger, confusion, the pain caused by bullying and the desire to fit into a social group by connecting with other people. It addresses how people can change after a tragedy, the dangers of isolating oneself and how teens focus on pursuits such as gaming, science fiction, graphic novels, art, music and popular culture to express themselves and try to make sense of their world.

The story begins as Sam struggles to understand why his best friend Hayden chose to kill himself rather than reach out to him for help. A plaintive playlist and a sad note takes him on a journey where he meets an enigmatic, troubled girl and a disparate group of teens who may or may not have the key to the mystery.

Falkoff works off an interesting premise as she attempts to link each chapter to a song title tied to Sam's investigations. The music featured is angry and full of Indy folk rock angst from bands such as The Decemberists and Nine Inch Nails. Some of the tracks like How to Disappear Completely, How to Fight Loneliness, Invisible, Despair, On Your Own and Mad, Mad World have clearer connotations than others. The lyrics are a mix of sadness, madness, love and death. Some of the music is reminiscent of the poignant tracks found on the hit teen drama One Tree Hill without the more upbeat, bright, hopeful and joyful elements. Frustratingly not all the connections are clear. Maybe a better understanding would be gleaned from actually listening to all the tracks on the playlist as I am not familiar with every artist.

Who is the mysterious Archmage-Ged and why do they keep contacting Sam? Who is Astrid and why is Elvis Costello's song Alison relevant? What happened on the night of the party that caused Hayden to make a fatal decision? Does the blame for his death belong to anyone? What is Mudding and who are the Trifecta? Why is the movie Donnie Darko relevant? All these questions and more will be answered when you read the book.

For a sensitive study of teen suicide and grief you may want to read I Was Here by Gayle Forman in which Cody searches for answers about why her best friend Meg has decided to end her life or you may like to explore the therapeutic power of music in Playlist For A Broken Heart by Cathy Hopkins. Also for a beautifully realised, nostalgic début celebrating the joy of connecting with another human being look no further than Tape by Steven Camden.

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Buy Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff at


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