Published by HarperTeen on September 5th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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.
“Entire lives aren’t lessons, but there are lessons in lives.”
They Both Die at the End is my first book by Adam Silvera and although I can see he is a great writer who has a deep understanding of people and their relationships, I found this novel somewhat underwhelming. Not bad by any means but just a bit…meh. In part that is certainly due to the genre of the book: despite the sci-fi element – in an alternate 2017 a company called Death-Cast calls people to tell them their last day has come – this novel is a contemporary. As we all know by now, YA contemporaries are difficult for me to love.
Nevertheless, the book should have had more of an emotional impact on me than it did. Though I sympathised with both Mateo and Rufus and felt they were well-developed, likeable characters I did not find myself attached to them and thus the ending, which as the title suggests should have been devastating, left me a bit cold. I am very appreciative of how little angst this book contained, especially in regards to the love story, however, I didn’t feel the chemistry between the two boys and wasn’t invested in their romance. They were cute but nothing more.
This story is very slow-moving and it often dragged. It reads much like what it’s supposed to be: a bucket list. Instead of a comfortable, flowing narrative, scenes often felt chopped and more like a list of actions that needed to happen for the time to pass. Even though the book takes place during one day only, there were many moments of boredom where my thoughts started drifting because the story wasn’t going anywhere. Perhaps this is inevitable considering the premise of the book but it was missing that pull towards something, there was nothing to be achieved, it was just about passing the time in the best way possible. Sure, that may be more representative of real life than other novels, but it also makes the read less enjoyable. Ultimately, although the boys were on a tight “deadline” (since they didn’t know when during the day they were going to die and had to try and live to the fullest while they could), the novel lacked urgency, which is somewhat ironic.
They Both Die at the End has an obvious message, the classic “Carpe Diem”, and unfortunately, I did not feel that Adam Silvera really contributed anything new to a rather exhausted message. The conversations between Mateo and Rufus felt at times stilted, at others too didactic for my taste. Although there were a couple of beautiful quotes about life and friendship, overall it lacked a certain punch.
“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.”
There were elements I really enjoyed about this book however. I loved the interspersion of the random chapters from other people’s POV which gave more texture to the story and made it more hopeful. I liked the relationships between our two main characters and their friends and the diversity of sexuality and ethnicity. The ending was well done and took me by surprise which is impressive considering the reader knows how the book ends before they even begin.
While this novel didn’t impress me, it still made me want to pick up Silvera’s other books. If you generally enjoy YA contemporaries I think you will like this, especially if you’re looking for something with a bit less angst. It’s a calm story wherein not much happens that you don’t know about from the beginning, yet the interesting premise and likeable characters made it an enjoyable read overall.