Title: They Both Die at the End (2017)
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Extent: 384 pages
Release Date: September 5, 2017
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.
Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.
I should’ve known what I was getting into with this book. I mean, with a title like They Both Die at the End, what else can you expect but to be thrown right into Heartbreak Central? As it turns out, however, there’s quite a little bit more in the story rather than tears and sadness — I think it’s what Adam Silvera does best. 😉
They Both Die at the End takes place over one day where Mateo and Rufus, two complete strangers, spend their last hours alive together. As each other’s Last Friend, they take turns doing whatever they can to make their last day meaningful. They say goodbyes to their family and friends. They travel the world and go skydiving in virtual reality. They eat their last meals. You know it: it’s pretty damn sad. And morbid. But mostly sad.
“Death is inevitable for everyone and it’s absolute for me today.”
For a book that happens in the span of a day, They Both Die really takes its time in picking up the pace. It took me a while to get into the story or to feel connected to the characters, but this was not an issue at all — the premise alone was interesting enough to keep me going and asks tough questions about life and death. What would you do if you know for sure you’re going to die? What does it mean to really live? 🤔
I was somewhat worried that one day is too little space for any realistic, believable character development to happen, but I honestly shouldn’t have worried. Mateo and Rufus are characters I’ve never encountered before but I’m immediately familiar with, and reading their interactions throughout the day, grief-filled as they are, was so worth it. They’ve got such distinctive personalities, but they each got something out of their time together.
“You may be born into a family, but you walk into friendships. Some you’ll discover you should put behind you. Others are worth every risk.”
One of my major gripes with They Both Die is in the world-building… in that it lacks it, in my opinion. I personally love thinking about the different ways death could be dealt with in the future (see: Neal Shusterman’s Scythe), and this book is so centred on the internal emotions and thoughts that I found it lacking setting-wise. We never found out how, when or why Death-Cast does things this way, and that would’ve been such an interesting angle to take.
The other reason why this book didn’t get the full five stars for me is that despite how creative I think the premise is and how interesting it was to read from different characters’ perspectives (not just Mateo’s or Rufus’s), the multi-POV approach more often than not takes away from my reading experience. I didn’t feel connected to any of these peripheral characters and reading their chapters gave me an unneeded ‘break’ from the main storyline. No matter how sad everything is, my emotions never really reached a climax and consequently, the ending felt rushed. 🙈
“Here’s my version of Utopia: a world without violence and tragedies, where everyone lives forever, or until they’ve led fulfilling and happy lived and decide themselves that they want to check out whatever’s next for us.”
They Both Die at the End is the kind of book that I read to really put myself in the characters’ shoes, mostly because of the intriguing premise. This is the kind of book that got me thinking and reflecting about my own life, wondering what I would do in a world like Mateo and Rufus’s. It’s the kind of book that I would recommend for that experience alone, because while books are a plenty, not all books can do that. 💙
* I received an ARC of THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END from the publisher via NetGalley.