New York Times bestselling author Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day. 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—to live a lifetime in a single day. In the tradition of Before I Fall and If I Stay, They Both Die at the End is a tour de force from acclaimed author Adam Silvera, whose debut, More Happy Than Not, the New York Times called “profound.”
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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END should be an incredibly sad book about dying, but instead it’s a manual on how to live. Author Adam Silvera shows how we’re all part of a single tapestry, and intersections with others can have a significance you might never understand. Mateo and Rufus are both beautiful souls, and though they are each flawed, their imperfections help strengthen the other. The day that they spend together might seem unremarkable to someone who doesn’t know them; fortunately, we get to know them both really well through some great character development.
In the midst of Mateo and Rufus’s story are the stories of many others. We just catch glimpses of some of them, and others receive a bit longer look. It’s understandable that none of them are as well put together as the two protagonists, but there are instances where the glimpses seem a bit too contrived and they distract rather than sharpen the focus on the two I really wanted to see.
This book would be a wonderful addition to a high school classroom. The conversations and debates I imagine it generating among teens would be awesome. Adam Silvera has created a fascinating, modern coming-of-age story, and I look forward to sharing it with others so that I can talk about it.
My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
A conversation starter for young adults
I enjoyed the multi-POV with the focus on Rufus and Mateo. It was mostly told through the eyes of the two main boys but we got little glimpses into a lot of characters who played a role in the day’s events. Sometimes they were character who’d also gotten to call, sometimes they were friends of either Rufus or Mateo, and sometimes they seemed like a random POV. Everything tied together very well, something I’ve come to expect from an Adam Silvera book.
I like the contrast between the two main boys. Mateo was quiet, much less adventurous, and was dealing with anxiety. Rufus was harsher, abrasive, but underneath very caring. Neither of them deserved to get a call from Deathcast saying they were going to die that day but they did and they both chose to make the most of it. I really liked the idea of an App where someone who’d gotten the call could find someone to spend their last day with and that were places they could go to have an amazing experience.
The whole idea of Deathcast had me wanting more, not in the ‘it wasn’t explained or built well in the book’ way but in the ‘this is so fascinating’ way. I could read about its creation, about the person who got the first call, about the people left behind. There could be so many stories written in this universe and I would read them all. And probably cry a lot because it’s Adam Silvera. Maybe one day I’ll make it through one of his books without crying but it wasn’t this one.
It all started with the author note. It was beautifully written and shows what an amazing human being Adam Silvera is. He has a way with words that just makes you feel. And the characters start to feel like real people, people you actually know and care about.
I loved the diversity in this book. Another thing I enjoyed was the extra people. The short little chapters about different people Mateo and Rufus met or people who had some part in their day. It reminded me a bit of Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star. That is one of the things I love about her story telling, too. Deidre was one of the other characters and I really loved her idea on reincarnation. That you can find out when and where you’ll be reincarnated so that your loved ones can find you. These little stories really added to the book for me.
But the real story was Mateo and Rufus. The way they brought out the best in each other was so heartwarming. I knew things would end badly, but I kept hoping that they would live.
They Both Die at the End, despite being a slightly morbid novel, is also an incredibly important one. The message the novel promotes is something that will relate to readers of all ages, but will undoubtedly stick with the young. It’s a book about living life to the fullest, which isn’t an especially unique sentiment – it’s rather something you would see on a cat poster or read in a self-help book – but Silvera’s distinctive twist on the adage is what makes his novel so powerful.
Imagine receiving a call at midnight telling you that you are going to die today. You are not told the specifics: you don’t know what time, how, or even who by – all you know is that today is your last day. Many of you will be angry and sad and hurt – and many more of us will feel guilty for a life unspent. We all have our insecurities and fears; Silvera’s novel tries to teach us to push past the fear and become the person we were always meant to be.
That being said, the novel doesn’t just tell you to go out there and put yourself in uncomfortable positions, it shows you through the power of friendship and family and making your own family, the ways in which we can live, not just survive.
Mateo is the character who is just trying to survive: he spends his days trapped in his apartment with his single father (who is currently in a coma), and only ventures out to see his best friend and her baby girl. Mateo is frightened of the outside world, although he’s not agoraphobic; more, he is afraid of putting himself out there for fear of being humiliated or rejected. It’s something we can all empathise with.
Rufus, on the other hand, is an angry boy, still reeling from the loss of his entire family months ago, and the recent breakup with his girlfriend. When we meet him, he is beating up his girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Unlike Mateo, Rufus is not scared: he wants to spend his Last Day with no fear, experiencing anything and everything he possibly can before he goes. I think we would all benefit from a Rufus in our lives.
Silvera’s writing, as always, is beautiful and haunting and makes you feel. Although I didn’t cry as much as I did when I read More Happy Than Not, They Both Die at the End will weigh on you for days. The plot is slow-paced, more concerned with character development, but the pieces gradually come together as the reader watches in horrid fascination, helpless to prevent what they know will come to fruition.
While reading They Both Die at the End, I had this lyric from Hamilton in my head: “Death doesn’t discriminate / Between the sinners / And the saints / It takes and it takes and it takes.” It’s an sorrowful statement, but it’s also remarkably true, and I think it’s also a statement that is at the heart of this novel: death takes and it’s unfair at times, but at the end of the day we can’t escape it, so must try to live instead.