Title: They Both Die at the End
Author: Adam Silvera
“Today is one long morning. But I have to be the one who wakes up and gets out of bed. I look ahead at the empty streets, and I start walking toward Rufus and his bike, walking toward death with every minute we lose, walking against a world that’s against us.”
This book has been on my radar for a little while. The lovely Jaz (@travelsinfiction) raved about it when she read it, and the premise always intrigued me! They Both Die at the End is a book which introduces the reader to a world where people live everyday knowing that at midnight they may receive a call from Death-Cast telling them they’re going to die. Our protagonists Mateo and Rufus both receive such a call and know that as the clock begins to tick, they need to make sure they’ve lived a life they’re happy with. Finding each other on an app called Last Friend, they both are happy for the company on their final day, but as they get to know each other a bit more, they may find more than just a friendship, they, in a painfully ironic twist, may just find a reason to live.
As protagonists, it’s hard not to love both Rufus and Mateo; their personalities were contrasting, but the phrase “opposites attract” came to mind while reading this. I enjoyed how they both slowly opened up to each other as the novel progressed, and by the end, despite the title, I was really hoping they wouldn’t die!
I really liked the concept of the novel, but don’t think it was logistically sound; after chatting to Jaz about it, it made a little more sense to me, but I still think that the very existence of Death-Cast affects the way people live their lives, and therefore affects how they die, which means that arguably, Death-Cast is the reason some people die. I won’t go into detail, because it will spoil the book, but I do think there were some loopholes in the premise. But, I will say that I did love the idea of there being a Death-Cast, and also how it made people consider the day differently because they knew it was their last. There was something that was quite haunting and heart-warming about someone contemplating their life and existence knowing that there is a ticking clock on their life.
Considering the age of the protagonists, the writing felt very realistic, and I appreciated the subtle references to modern culture. I didn’t love all the writing, but it was very typical YA, so that’s more on me and my reading preferences than it was on Silvera’s ability to write. The light-hearted nature of the protagonists’ dialogue really contrasted with the ominous elephant in the room, and I really enjoyed the oxymoronic atmosphere of the novel. I also enjoyed how intense Rufus was, and I could imagine, that had this plot been different, he would be the kind of person to love fiercely and unwaveringly – a trait I always admire in characters.
If I’m being honest, I was a little annoyed by the ending; the whole way through I LOVED how Silvera weaved different stories together, and how one chapter could be narrated by someone who would then appear briefly in a chapter narrated by someone else. But seeing as he did such a good job of tying it together, I just feel like the ending fell apart a little. Again, I won’t spoil it, but I, personally, would have preferred more clarity and closure.
Any book which makes me contemplate what makes us human is a book I can enjoy, and this certainly did that. It perfectly portrays the hedonism of being young while also relaying the difficulties of knowing your fate. But most of all I loved how the book portrayed how unfair life can be – it can take you to the lowest of the low, and only bring you up again when you’re about to die, but if we can take away anything, it’s that we should savour and appreciate all the love we can find, because it might just be the last day we can enjoy it.