Can you imagine getting a phone call informing you that you only have 24 hours – sometimes less than that – to the end of your life?
Bizarre, isn’t it?
Well, this is the reality of the world introduced by Adam Silvera in his latest young adult (YA) novel, They Both Die At The End.
I eagerly await Silvera’s books because I love what he brings to the genre, and sure enough, They Both Die At The End proves to be realistic and a breath of fresh air at the same time.
The book follows the story of two teenage boys, Mateo and Rufus, who both receive their ill-fated phone calls from Death-Cast, the organisation that deals with informing people of their death days.
The premise of the book is somewhat morbid – I have no idea what went through my head and why I would put myself through an emotional roller coaster by reading about two teens who are living their last day on earth.
I’m not a stranger to the works of Silvera so I knew it would be a heartbreaking read for me. His previous books include More Happy Than Not (2015) which gutted me with that wicked twist in the end, and History Is All You Left Me (January 2017) which explores first love and first true grief.
However, the story in They Both Die At The End did intrigue me. I, for one, am not a huge fan of sad stories but I was in the mood for something raw and emotional, and They Both Die At The End did deliver a resounding tale based on the rather overused adage carpe diem (seize the day).
They Both Die At The End spans only one day, with the opening chapters introducing readers to Mateo and Rufus as they each receive the call. The book then goes on to explore what it means to truly live and to have the courage to bid farewell to your loved ones.
Similar to most contemporary YA fiction books, there wasn’t much going on in They Both Die At The End, since it’s basically a story that focuses on Mateo and Rufus’ last day together when they find each other on the Last Friend app. Yes, this strange world has an app that caters to “Deckers” – the term for those poor unfortunate souls who will face the Grim Reaper at the end of the day – allowing them to meet similar people to spend their End Day with.
Though the plot is rather simplistic – which is not exactly a bad thing – it carried the overall message of the book well, which is to live life fearlessly, and also that death is inevitable. It says a lot about Silvera’s writing that he manages to convey this to a target audience that tends to see itself as immortal – teens always do, don’t they?
The characterisation in They Both Die At The End is also well done. Silvera is known to write multifaceted and dimensional characters. In this one, he has done no different.
The central characters are complete opposites but their chemistry is palpable, from the easy banter to the discovery of each other’s backstories. As their friendship blossoms, the more their story tugged at my heartstrings, especially since I know that they will both die at the end.
There’s Mateo, who constantly frets over everything and lives his days in the safety of the four walls of his home; and then there’s Rufus, an orphan whose family died in a car accident, which is instrumental in his developing a devil-may-care outlook in life.
The contrast between the two of them plays a huge role in both of their character development, where meeting each other on the app is by chance, but changing each other’s lives is not.
I must commend Silvera on writing characters that are so relatable and that can reflect on our deepest fears. Indeed, the ideas in this book resounded deeply in me: the fear of dying and leaving your loved ones behind.
Mateo and Rufus’s story is easily one of my favourites this year. Definitely a story that you should add to your personal collection.
They Both Die At The End
Author: Adam Silvera