I received an ARC of this book from Around the World ARC Tours for my honest review at Donnie Darko Girl.
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.