Published by HarperTeen on January 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead. All he left Sam was a playlist of songs—and a note, saying that he took his own life. But what Sam doesn’t know is: Why?
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. Especially when someone claiming to be Hayden starts sending him cryptic messages, and a series of violent attacks begins on the bullies who made Hayden’s life hell.
Sam knows he has to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him—including an eccentric, unpredictable girl who’s got secrets, too—that Sam will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story.
And maybe have a chance to change his own.
This was a rather bittersweet story that focuses on the aftermath of a suicide, and the best friend who was left to discover how to continue on after experiencing such an event. The synopsis gives a bit of a Thirteen Reasons Why feeling, but doesn’t feature the angst-driven plot that the latter book employs. (I actually didn’t enjoy Thirteen Reasons Why, but that’s another tale.) Basically in the beginning, Sam finds his best friend Hayden dead. He’s left with a rather mysterious note telling him to listen to the playlist that Hayden left behind before overdosing. With those songs in hand, Sam starts a journey that will make him question what he knew about his friend.
If there’s one thing I learned from the playlist, it’s how important listening to people can be.
There’s a lot of different factors that drove Hayden towards his death, as Sam finds out in the book. At first he’s pretty lost, after realizing that his best – and pretty much only – friend isn’t in the world anymore. But then he meets Astrid, who is pretty eccentric and starts to hang out with her friend group. It really opens a door for him and makes him realize that it’s possible for him to have more than just one friend, even if other friends don’t exactly have the same interests.
Basically, Hayden and Sam were always together and liked the same geeky things and songs. Hayden was also bullied a lot by his brother Ryan and Ryan’s two friends (called the bully trifecta). I think the author did a really great job in exploring the relationship between bully and bullied. There are always two sides to a story, and while you might not like the other side, it’s always worth hearing about. Anyways, it’s obvious that being bullied was part of what drove Hayden to take his life, and Sam just wishes that karma would teach the bullies a thing or two. But the thing is – when does it go too far? Before he knows it, one of the guys is getting beaten up and the other was publicly humiliated. Sam has to really debate whether these kind of actions are really what will fix things, in the end.
People are going to say a lot of things. And some of it will be helpful, and some of it will be annoying, and lots of it will get on your nerves. But they’re saying it because they found it helpful when they lost someone. They mean well.
Some factors that made this book enjoyable include a supportive mom on Sam’s side, as well as a believable sister relationship that is strained but becomes better as the book progresses. Sam’s mom was really great throughout the story; she’s a quiet character, but she’s there and not stuck in the background. She’s quietly supporting Sam even as she watches out for both him and his sister. She’s also super hard-working and a single parent. It was really nice to see that kind of parent character. Although the guidance counselor played a small role, it was also great to see a positive representation of that kind of adult’s role in Sam’s life. I thought it was superbly written since it wasn’t IN HUGE LETTERS, but rather slipped into the story – just like how it just slips into life sometimes.
I think this story had a great message, although the playlist didn’t exactly contribute in that aspect (it was more for symbolism, really). The author explores the characters’ relationships quite realistically, even if it may be bittersweet at times. I would have liked to have seen more of an exploration of Hayden’s depression, but it makes sense that Sam wouldn’t fully understand that aspect of Hayden’s life; otherwise, the portrayal of suicide and bullying definitely leaves a hopeful message that will surely touch readers’ hearts.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5