Title: They Both Die at the End
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre: YA, Fiction, LGBTQ+
Synopsis: 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.
They Both Die at the End is a speculative YA novel about living life to its fullest. It features two diverse teen characters—a gay Puerto-Rican character and a bisexual Cuban character—and tackles topics like foster care, friendship, and the fear of dying alone. Adam Silvera brought these two characters to life with realistic dialogue, never sacrificing a moment to make Mateo and Rufus three-dimensional in the reader’s mind. The excessive, yet realistic amount of times Rufus said “mad” was reminiscent of any young New Yorker.
Although the two boys meet each other on their last day alive, they set off to eat food, walk around town, ride on bikes, visit Mateo’s comatose father in the hospital, and sing karaoke. Because of the nature of Adam Silvera’s story, the novel doesn’t provide much plot. The story is driven by the development of both Mateo and Rufus as characters; we see them grow as friends and overcome their fears as their End Day draws to a close.
Adam Silvera writes an emotional and unique take on the idea of carpe diem. However, I found that the novel stops there, with nothing deeper lying beneath the surface. Behind the realistic characters and thought-provoking concept, I found myself desiring more—more vivid descriptions, more showing through the writing instead of telling us outright how the characters were feeling. The writing voice is wonderful, but leaves little for “reading between the lines.” The most emotional moments of the novel nearly fell flat for me because of this. When things happened, they just happened. As a novel for young adults, this can be expected, though more work from the reader often makes for a more engrossing experience. I would have liked to get more invested in this novel, but a purely surface-level read was enough for this reading experience.
Nearly ten characters besides our main heroes give us a glimpse into their lives with short third-person chapters. Further into the novel, the reader realizes every character is connected in some small way, which is a beautiful way of suggesting that no character is throwaway. Although the tense shift from first to third person took getting used to and were not altogether needed for the story to have the same emotional impact at the end, these short chapters definitely added another dimension to Mateo and Rufus’s End Day.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this novel was not knowing how the end would come about for these two boys. I’m always skeptical of one-day love stories, but my heart felt for Mateo and Rufus anyway, and knowing they were to die at the end of the book did not make it any less painful when it finally happened.
Despite the title, They Both Die at the End is a book about life. It’s about becoming the person you want to be without fear holding you back. It’s a story that begs the question: If you knew today was your last day would you be happy with the life you lived?