Playlist for the Dead, Book Review

Published: 2015 by HarperTeen

 

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries 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 that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

I’m going to admit something a little strange – I purchased this book based solely on the names of the main characters: Sam and Hayden. For those of you that know me, that may make sense, even though it isn’t all that significant. But for anyone else, a little clarification:

My name is Sam, and my first serious relationship was with a guy called Hayden. It’s a long way in the past now, and has no real significant bearing on my life, but it was funny, so I bought the book.

Looking past my reason for buying it, I did read the blurb and the premise of the story was promising, simply and clear. The story itself though is emotional and complicated, and that’s a good thing. The story centres around the suicide of Hayden, Sam’s best friend. Sam finds Hayden the morning after a party, withnote to sam PFTDno note, but instead, a USB stick, with a scrap of paper…

Each chapter is set to the melancholy tune of one of the songs from Hayden’s playlist, with tracks like Blink 182’s Adam’s Song and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. (You can find a playlist of all the songs oer on 8tracks, made by sydneyteresa). The songs are fitting, dreary, sad, hopeless, and the consequential chapters flow around each song, exploring Sam’s emotions and his struggle to figure out why. The novel is well written, but still very easy to read, without being over-the-top or obnoxious at all. The language is that a teenager would probably use in daily life, and that just makes the book all the more relatable. Reading the book, I fully believed I was in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. It was refreshingly simple.

The themes explored though, are contrastingly not. Suicide, primarily, but also Sam’s guilt for what he feels is his part of the blame, guilt for seemingly moving on, first love and the feelings associated with attraction to the opposite sex, depression and also the frustration he feels at wanting the others he believes are at fault to pay for their crimes.

playlist of the dead

Told from Sam’s perspective, we experience the journey through his eyes, and we see the characters as he wants to see them – the bullies as bullies without their own problems, and Astrid as a gorgeous, amazing person, and not the sneaky deviant that she actually is. As Sam learns that these people aren’t what they may have always seemed to him, he begins to realise that maybe Hayden wasn’t all he seemed either, and he begins, slowly, to somewhat understand why Hayden might have committed suicide. He also begins to unravel the stories that tie them all together regarding Hayden’s decision.

Having had a fight the night before at a party, which they wouldn’t normally have gone to, Sam blames himself for the whole thing. But the more people he opens up to, and finds out about, the more he startsimageto figure out what actually happened, and that there was more to it than just what he had experienced. Falkoff writes this in such a way, bit by bit, that you can’t help but want to keep reading just to find out what happened. It was this clever way of spreading out how Sam found out each piece of the story that kept me reading, and why mention that the story is more complicated than just Sam dealing with his grief over the death of his friend.

The book is a little similar to Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, though not quite as isolated and intense (I preferred Thirteen Reasons Why), however it is a nice easy read and keeps you hooked long enough to finished it.

4outof5

 

Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A book published this year
 
 Images from: here, here, here, here

The Ups and Downs and ‘Are you Okays?’ Of Bipolar

Mental illness is not an excuse. It’s not a scapegoat and it’s not a free ride. It’s hard and crushing and difficult, and it can break lives apart. Or you can do your best to live with it and make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt.

I was first diagnosed with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, when I went through a particularly hard break-up during my university years, I was 24 years old. It was scary and difficult and my friends at the time didn’t really understand it. To be honest, people around me now still don’t really understand it. There are only so many times you can answer ‘Are you Okay?’ with ‘There’s nothing wrong’ when people are poking and prodding and not have them believe you because they simply don’t understand.

The thing about bipolar is that there usually is no reason for the down periods. You are not just sad, you are not just having a bad day. You are depressed, and that is not something that you can’t just shake off and get over. It’s not that easy. I can manage my depression, I’m not suicidal, I haven’t taken medication in a few years and that’s something I’m usually quite proud of. But every now and again I have a bad day or a bad week and I’m just down. I’m not bubbly, or happy, or fun; I’m just down, with a side of irritability and anxiousness. Not many people can do anything to make me feel better (there are a small handful who can), and most people just seem to think that asking what is wrong and enticing me to talk is going to help. And to be honest, it doesn’t. It’s just more frustrating.

Most of the time I’m fine. It’s not something that I introduce myself to the world with – ‘Hi I’m Sam and I have Bipolar’. No, that is not a label that I tend to advertise to the world as easily as I do being a geek or a writer.

5bebe4e4a9faf853d301d917772b3f44Bipolar is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes extreme mood swings. I can be exceedingly happy and grateful and positive, and then other times you couldn’t get any lower, you just want to close the curtains and curl into a ball and cry, and cry, and cry. If you are genuinely interested in what bipolar is you can find out more at the hundreds of websites that have been set up in support of people with bipolar disorder, but here’s a handy infograph to make it easy.

I’m very lucky that I have a very supportive family, friends and boyfriend. But there are always the odd few who will never understand and make it their business to get all up in your business. Being anxious and over self-aware and judgemental, kinda miserable and very irritable leads to a not very positive response to the constant ‘Are you Okay?’s ‘What’s really wrong’s and persistent ‘Why are you so sad? Just be happy’s. I know most people think they mean well, but these comments are toxic. They drive you to believe that there must be something wrong with you, that you can’t just be you, that there’s a reason, there has to be a reason, and they desperately need to know what that reason is. I can’t tell you how sick I am of making excuses, of coming up with some reason or another as to why I’m not my ‘bubbly self’ this week. The truth is, that that ‘bubbly’ side isn’t really me either, that’s the up that shows such a harsh contrast to my more frequent down.

a93a931f6a60a535d76b44eee2d941e3Having said that, my bipolar is not an excuse either. When I am asked the question ‘What’s wrong’ and the answer is ‘nothing’, that is the truth. When I say it’s my bipolar, that is not an excuse, that is what is actually happening, it’s fact. And it’s not easy, I would LOVE for the answer to be something else, like having a fight with my boyfriend or getting a shitty fine. While shitty things influence my mood in general, I’m not saying they don’t, when it is bipolar, it’s not caused by anything, there is no catalyst. I don’t know what mood I’ll be in when I wake up in the morning, I can’t predict how I’ll feel. I don’t know what’s coming and unpredictability is really scary. People have left me in the past for less than a depressed week, they can’t handle the mood swings, the ups and downs, the snappiness, the unpredictability. This is partially why I had such a deep distrust of men, thinking they were constantly doing wrong by me, not knowing the whole time that I was, and not narcissistically, the problem.

I’ve found a place where, aside from the constant lack of understanding, I am able for the most part to manage my illness, and am actually leading a very normal, and boring, little life. I just wish that other people could leave me alone to do it in peace without needed to know what the catalyst is for every bad day – because sometimes, it’s you.

At the end of the day, it’s frustrating that there is such a lack of understanding and a huge amount of taboo still placed on mental illnesses. So many people don’t understand them, and that lack of understanding affects people with mental illnesses every day. So yeah, it’s nice to care, and it’s nice to have people who care, and asking someone who is sad if they are okay, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But an understanding of what that person is actually dealing with, what they are actually going through, would help them a whole lot more.

You can also read my essay: Stress and its effects as a result of Bipolar Disorder Including Interventions to Treating Stress for more information.

Red

Sometimes a colour can perfectly sum up how you feel.

For example – you may feel blue when you’re a bit down, or completely green with envy. Grey like a raincloud when you’re a bit washed out or the flourishing yellow of friendship in good company.

But there is one colour, that upon feeling it can entail so many emotions.

RED.

While there are two main emotions that this colour portrays – Anger and Passion – there is a cacophony  of emotions that compliment one or other of these. And I think red best suits how I feel at this moment in time. Red symbolizes energy, war, danger, vigor, willpower, rage, anger, leadership, courage, longing, malice, wrath, strength and determination, as well as joy, sexuality, passion, sensitivity, desire, and love. Many of which are intertwined and present in my life at the moment. Both in regard to uprooting myself and moving overseas, as well as work-life, and romantic prospects.

So on that note, I think that red is the appropriate feeling for me today.

Fitting my life into a 30kg Suitcase…

So I really need to start packing things up around here. 28 years of accumulated hoarding means I have way too much stuff and no way to move it. I mean, moving house is one thing, but moving to another country with a check-in luggage limit is something completely different.

I need to be ruthless, I need to be completely harsh and honest with myself in regard to what I’ll need and what I wont need. I know there are so many things that I want to take with me, things with sentimental value and things that were gifts, or collectables, or bought on trips. But I literally can’t take them all with me, as much as I’d like to have them all in my place once I get set up over there. So, how do you decide what to leave behind?

I think there are some pretty obvious ones, but there are some things I’m struggling with. For example – anything I can buy over there, I will obviously leave behind, i.e. My Xbox and Playstation. I don’t really use my play station anymore, but my Xbox is my baby. It has over 10 years of my gaming life on it and while I haven’t had this particular model for long, it’s going to suck to leave it beind – solution? Take out the hard drive? Maybe. Or just back it all up so I can buy a new one over there and copy everything over. Problem solved.

I guess it’s things like books, DVDs, Blu Rays and collectables that are causing me the most concern. These things are a big part of my expression of who I am, and I don’t really want to give them all away or even sell them. But the DVDs are a given – they wont even play over there because it’s a different region. The Blu Rays, however, will play, and my collection of them isn’ that huge, so I’m considering them – but where do you draw the line? This is my dilemma.

My Books are the biggest issue. I have so many and given the choice, would take them all in a heartbeat. But they are simply too heavy. I could ship some, but how much money am I really willing to throw at getting something over there that would probably be cheaper to replace? *sigh*

30kg is not a lot, regardless of how big your suitcase is. But I guess what this really is, is a chance to make an honest fresh start. Here goes!