“Maybe it’s better to have gotten it right and been happy for one day instead of living a lifetime of wrongs.” (345)
Started: June 11th | Finished: June 16th
This book comes out this September, but I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of it at BookCon (I snagged the last book that they were giving out!). Not only is the cover beautiful, but after reading More Happy Than Not, I knew I had to read They Both Die at the End. The title alone makes me want to read it.
After reading the author’s note in the beginning, I knew the book was going to hit me hard. Adam Silvera prefaces how the book comes from a place of inexperience–of not taking risks, of not living life as the person you want to be. And I didn’t know we were doing call-outs here, but Adam has really called me out.
The book centers around two boys who are going to die. Nothing around that.
There’s a company called Death-Cast, who calls individuals on the day they’re going to die. Every day, between 12 am and 3 am, people all over are receiving calls saying it’s their last day to live, though few even make it to the end. The people who are going to die are called Deckers. This idea of death not being a surprise anymore is just so ingrained in the world, and once someone gets the call, there’s nothing around it.
And on September 5th, 2017, Mateo and Rufus find out they’re going to die.
Mateo and Rufus are very different. Mateo is thoughtful and reserved and regrets not living more when he had the time. Rufus has been through a lot of shit and is almost accepting of death when he receives the call. Coming from two different perspectives and backgrounds, they’re brought together through an app called Last Friend, which connects Deckers together so they don’t have to die alone.
I identify with Mateo the most. He’s an introverted teen, scared to leave his apartment at first when getting the alert because the outside has so many more threats. And through Rufus, he realizes that to live is better than to have not, especially if it’s going to just end in the same outcome. Rufus becomes a symbol for the life Mateo wished he could’ve been living, if he hadn’t been so scared.
And Mateo also represents something for Rufus. When Rufus gets the alert from Death-Cast, he’s up to no good, behaving out of character. It forces him to confront the mark he wants to leave on the world. Meeting Mateo allows Rufus to realize aspects of the world that he hadn’t realized before because he was too in his own head, living but not noticing the true beauty in the details of the world. Mateo becomes a symbol for the life Rufus could’ve had if he had someone to ground him.
I love the concept as a whole and I love the execution of it. The characters featured were so dynamic and diverse and real to me. Mateo and Rufus had so many layers to their identities, shedding each layer as they realize that death is still waiting on the other side regardless. That secrets aren’t a threat anymore. They become more comfortable in their own skin.
Because the book documents their entire day, from when they first get the call to their last moments, it made for such an interesting read. I was so aware of these characters and their lives coming closer to the end with every page I turned. It was a unique feeling–not only reading about how the characters accept death, but how I, as the reader, is also accepting the inevitability of their deaths.
And Silvera doesn’t just follow the point of views of Mateo and Rufus, but also the point of views of others. This includes Mateo and Rufus’s friends and family, other Deckers who receive the phone call, and people who have to make these phone calls. I really enjoyed this aspect because there was always some overlap between one character and the other–you read about how the Decker takes the news of impending death and how the caller feels about giving the news of impending death. This really helped develop the background of the world further.
I didn’t mind that there wasn’t any in-depth explanation about the logistics of Death-Cast and how they predict deaths and how they’re never wrong. Though I am still beyond curious, the concept is so unique and you’re just thrown into it, without having to worry about the nitty-gritty of the company. Death-Cast exists and that’s that. It’s just how the world in They Both Die at the End works. It’s interesting reading about a world that is so alike ours, but also so different.
The finality of it all is harrowing to come to terms with, but reading about how Mateo and Rufus are doing so much living, even when faced with death, is inspiring. The book is about these two unique and realistic and opposite characters meeting and spending their last day together. They face goodbyes and fears and challenges along the way, they learn things about each other that no one else knows, and they have so many firsts on their last day.
The relationship between the two of them and how they grow with each other is another part that drives the book. They both have something to give each other. It’s as if they were fated to meet on their last day.
The book is about living. About identity and the mark you’ll leave behind. About finding similarities in fears and aspirations. About motivating yourself and inspiring others.
That’s why I loved the book. It hit home for me because I was able to relate to so many aspects–of fear stopping me from pursuing what I want, of being alive but not being the person I want to be in life, of breathing but not truly living.
I just loved the concept of They Both Die at the End. I can’t imagine living in a world where once it hits midnight, I await a phone call telling me whether I’ll even make it to the next day. I love the characters and their progression.
And I love the message the book is sending, which is what Adam writes about in his author’s note: to start living for yourself.
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Bonus: A picture of my autographed copy that Adam signed at BookCon!