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Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
Published January 27th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

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 book was a lot of things the synopsis neglected to include, and the synopsis was a lot of things the book neglected to include, and all in all, if you graphed out my feelings toward Playlist for the Dead, it would be a steep downward slope, with a small but noticeable kick upward during the last few pages.

THE GOOD

  • I love how minimalistic the cover is, and how it matches with the author’s other cover! (I am weak to covers please let me have this much)
  • From the title, the synopsis, and the first few chapters, Playlist for the Dead seemed like it would follow a plotline a la Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Thank goodness it didn’t – I hated that book.
  • I really liked Sam’s sister Rachel and her boyfriend, Jimmy! For all the shit Sam said about her, they had a very typical sibling dynamic, and I like how warm and easygoing Jimmy was, and how he took everything in stride and was just… a supporting constant in the book. That was nice. Rachel has good taste /thumbs up/
  • also Rachel likes Hawaiian pizza
  • that’s basically all the brownie points in my book, okay
  • the message at the ending made a serious effort to redeem some of the faults earlier in the novel – not everyone was pretty, not everyone was smart, not everyone dealt with things the same way, and no one was perfect. But everyone tried, and they tried in their own way, and if you made an effort to talk to others, you might realize that your story isn’t the only story.
  • It doesn’t change the fact that the guy was an asshole, but. Props.

THE NOT

“”The playlist. Has it helped you understand?”
I thought about it for a minute. “Not yet,” I admitted. “But I’m starting to see that maybe it wasn’t all about me.””

  • Do you ever just pick up a book and realize that you’re probably never going to get along with the main character? In the first few chapters, Sam managed to acknowledge that her mom was working hard to provide for the family and get angry at her for doing so in the same breath, look down on the majority of the student body for not listening to his kind of music and playing games and sharing his interests, and make his best friend’s death mainly about himself. Sure he kind of eased up toward the end (kind of? Kind of.) but really, in a book as short as this, there’s no going back from that first third.
  • Playlist for the Dead wasn’t really about the playlist, and really once Astrid came along it really wasn’t about the dead either, so much as it was about getting with the hot junior girl.
  • Plot what plot?
  • The characters, Sam aside, were either bland and generic or, in Astrid’s case, practically perfect in every way.
  • AND YEAH speaking of. Why were all the girls just two-dimensional tropes? Astrid was a textbook maniac pixie dream girl, their relationship was an entirely unnecessary shot of insta-love, and she basically showed up just to fluff up Sam’s ego.
  • Girls are people with dreams and aspirations and futures too?
  • Why did no girl in this book exist outside of her relationship with some guy?
  • Which is probably why, in stories like this, you should be able to feel something, right? But all I felt was annoyance and a general disconnect.
  • The whole thing with Archmage_Ged would’ve been interesting had it been explored, hinted at, and fleshed out more, but the buildup was just weird and lackluster and the conclusion… /cues screaming in the background/ YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT. YOU CAN’T JUST DROP SOMETHING LIKE THAT ON US AND END THE BOOK.
  • I still don’t really know why Hayden passed away.
  • I still don’t really get the whole point of that playlist.
  • And the conclusion is… what again? “I was angry” and “I was tired” are pretty lame ways to tie up those threads, especially considering what they did. I’m having a hard time believing there wasn’t more of a follow-up from the police.

Ending with a quote from Jess after her part in Sam’s series of much-needed talks toward the end of the book, because for all the other character’s talks about her being timid and shy, I think being able to sort through her emotions think like this in the face of things was pretty brave.

“…maybe we all need to accept that none of us are going to be a hundred percent right. I don’t think I’ll ever stop blaming myself for my part, but in some ways it’s easier to blame myself than anyone else, and maybe someday that will make it possible for me to let myself off the hook a little bit. Because if none of us is a hundred percent responsible, then it’s probably just as likely that none of us could have stopped this from happening, even if we’d known what it was we should have been trying to do. And we probably need to accept that, just like we need to accept that he’s not coming back.”

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I’m going to be honest here: probably the only reason why I finished Scarlet was because I read it during history (because I’m a perfect model student, didn’t you know?). Because, really, anything is more interesting than history with a clueless substitute teacher. Even a story that nearly drove me to tears of boredom and frustration.

The most annoying thing about Scarlet was Cinder’s identity. Or, rather, the other characters’ inability to put together two and two and realize who Cinder was. I’m pretty close to crying, guys. Scarlet and Wolf were LOOKING for Princess Selene. By the end of the book, they KNEW the princess was secretly smuggled to earth and taken in by someone with the last name “Linh.” They KNEW that a Lunar teenager had recently broken out of prison (don’t tell me they didn’t know there were so many broadcastings about it) with the last name “Linh.” If they were really looking for Princess Selene, wouldn’t they have been just a little suspicious? Then if they’d done the math, they would have realized that – surprise! – the escaped fugitive and the princess were around the same age. Don’t even get me started on Captain Thorne (HE WAS WITH HER FOR THE LONGEST).

And KAI. It’s been maybe a year since I’ve read Cinder, so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that whole capture thing at the end of Cinder and the Lunar Queen (whose name I’ve conveniently forgotten) were huge clue-ins to Cinder’s identity as Princess Selene. Of course, that’s not the only fuck-up from him. His big decision at the end to “save everyone” made no sense whatsoever. Yeah, okay, Earth’s going to be okay for a little bit. A couple years at most. But after that? It’s going to be goodbye, Earth.

Cinder? It’s best if you stick with Captain Throne. Granted, he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least he hasn’t doomed an entire planet. Yet.

That aside, the romance didn’t raise any points for Scarlet, either. It wasn’t terrible, I suppose. Just… lacking. There wasn’t really any base for the romance. Since romance is one of the genres, it’s pretty obvious that Scarlett and Wolf are going to get together, but when they do, it’s pretty disappointing. One minute they’re flinging fruits at each other and in the next they’re kissing in a jail cell and there’s literally no in-between.

The Queen’s Army/wolf pack left me equally interested and confused. I will admit to skipping over some details and things towards the end because I just wanted the story to hurry up and end already, but even so… the hierarchal system and the wolf/man concept just seemed hazy and I felt so lost. Other little things confused me too, like the setting. Sometimes it took a while to figure out where they were because all the settings seemed so similar, and the narrative neglected to point out any landmarks or such for clarification.

Captain Thorne, inability to see what was dancing in neon lights right in front of his nose aside, was funny and witty, and generally I liked him. Cinder too had turned quite interesting and badass (I greatly preferred her narratives over Scarlet’s). But that aside, there weren’t very many redeeming points for Scarlet as far as I’m concerned.

The way my rating system’s set up, I’ve described a one-star as “eh, don’t bother” and a two-star as “interesting enough to finish, but too many flaws for my liking” – pretty much Goodread’s “did not like it” and “liked it.” So I’m setting Scarlett in the middle. I did finish it, but would only recommend it for people who really enjoyed Cinder. Then again, 86% of Goodread-ers gave Scarlett 4 and 5 stars, so I guess I’m the black sheep?

But there’s my two cents ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ