Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End is a stunning and poignant novel that reflects upon death and what it means to really live.
It revolves around to boys, Mateo and Rufus, who both receive a call from Death-Cast, a company who calls you on your death day to notify you that you’ll die, and meet up with the Last Friend app to live their last day the way they want to.
Mateo & Rufus’ journey is told in alternating point of views, along with that of a few other people thrown in as well, over the course of their last day.
Will they both die at the end? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Here’s the official summary:
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 have to be real here, this might be a little biased from how excited I was to receive a DRC of this novel.
The entire premise of the novel captured my attention and the idea of Death-Cast calling you to tell you that you’re going to die that day is so exciting. Silvera built all these programs that spawned from Death-Cast, such as the Last Friend app which allows you to find a friend for your last day (as well as some more unsavory apps too).
Death-Cast is such a super cool concept, and I have so many more questions–why don’t they call you two days before you die? How do they know you’ll die? How do you get a job at Death-Cast?
But when you’re reading this book, it’s important to remember that this is a contemporary novel. It’s not a romance. Or science fiction. Or any other genre you want to classify it as, except contemporary.
Your unanswered questions will not matter because this book does what it’s supposed to do–it’s not mean to give you all the gritty details of the world because the world is helping the characters’ growth, not the other way around. These questions don’t have to be answered for this to be a good book.
I’ve seen some criticisms on the lack of information about Death-Cast and the world, but I find that irrelevant from the main point of the book.
Rufus and Mateo’s journey on their last day helps them grow into the people they want to be as Mateo breaks out of his shell and they both find peace.
The plot starts a little slowly on Mateo’s side as he tries to break out of his shell, while Rufus’ is fast at the get go, but by the last 2 parts of the novel, you’re desperately flipping the pages to find out what happens next and if they’re going to die. I was hooked the whole way through.
I think the pacing worked nicely with the alternative points of view as Rufus would help smooth out any slow parts in Mateo’s narrative.
Silvera uses a technique that I’m finding more and more in contemporary novels which is switching the point of view to a side or nearly irrelevant character and telling part of their story in third person (while the two MCs are in first).
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this–it can lead us on many tangents and possibly mislead the reader from guessing who’s going to die, but it also works as a plot device.
I think Silvera uses this well as it works to further the plot and justify some of the twists, but seeing it so much in contemporary YA is going to prompt me to write a blog post on this technique one of these days. I’ve seen it in Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star and the upcoming novel As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti.
I find this technique can be very helpful to the plot, but if used incorrectly I think it can severely take away from a book’s quality.
Nonetheless, it worked very well with this novel that gave us a schedule down to the minute over the course of 24 hrs.
The plot twists Silvera threw at us were all justified and, in retrospect, heavily foreshadowed, so much so that I wanted to bang my head at the wall for not catching it sooner.
AND THE CHARACTERS. Oh my little babies. Mateo and Rufus were both so precious, and they grew so much throughout this novel and I’m just so proud of both of them.
I loved connecting with the main characters (and the side characters). It’s the reason why I cried during parts of the novel because I love them so much and was so scared to find out if they were going to die or not.
They both were so realistic and I connected really well with both of them, especially with Mateo.
Mateo is kind of a recluse and he doesn’t leave his home very often. He’s not agoraphobic, but his father is in the hospital in a coma and Mateo’s not as adventurous as he wants to be. On his last day, after getting the call from Death-Cast, he takes the plunge and tries to be the person he and his father would want him to be, which he does by joining the Last Friend app.
Rufus was placed into the foster system four months ago after his family died in a car accident. He is in the middle of beating up his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend (he’s not that bad of a person, though) when he gets the call, and he’s trying to live his last day to the fullest.
Both Mateo and Rufus are Hispanic (Puerto Rican and Cuban respectively, I believe) and there’s a ton of POCs & diversity in this book which was so amazing.
Rufus’ best friends are black and defy the racial stereotype of “scary black men” as they’re some of the most loyal and sweet and best friends I’ve seen in a novel. While on the other side, Mateo’s best friend, Lidia, is a teen mom and such a mother hen.
And of course, Mateo is gay & Rufus is bi so your ship senses better be tingling right now!
Silvera adds a small author’s note at the beginning and you can see a lot of his personal self in Mateo which is something I find very cool.
I love the messages in this book; I can’t spoil them all, but after reading it, I really felt that inspiration to live life at its fullest–and not just on my last day.
That last day might be the push some people need to get out there, like Mateo did, but I interpreted the message that you should live your whole life to the fullest because we don’t know when we’re going to die because Death-Cast will never ring us up.
I am such a huge fan of this novel, it’s one of my favorite 2017 contemporary reads and it just made me think, which is what all great books make you do.
Silvera is such a master with words and there are so many quotable phrases in the novel that I can’t wait for its release in 2 DAYS so I can go to the bookstore, purchase a hardback copy (that gorgeous cover–swoonworthy!), and reread it (and maybe write a spoiler review too?)
I thought I’d end this review with a piece of quote art (from Epic Reads, who else?) to whet your appetite for this novel’s release.
Don’t forget, They Both Die at the End comes out on September 5th & you can preorder it from major booksellers!
Thank you so much to Edelweiss & Harper Teen for providing me with a digital review copy of They Both Die at the End in exchange for an honest review!
Are you excited for They Both Die at the End to come out?