Title: The Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera
Published by: Harper Teen
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: This novel is more cerebral than the Adam Silvera’s other work, deftly weaving a speculative universe within the confines of present day New York. It’s here, in this space, that two teenagers find each other and, in turn, find themselves. They Both Die At The End is a stellar piece of writing filled with love and friendship, joy and grief, courage and redemption, and more twists than you can throw a stick at. Whatever that means. Either way, it’s a candidate for best book of the year from me. I strongly encourage you to read it STAT.
Plot: 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—to live a lifetime in a single day.
Review: How would you live if this world was one where people were alerted of their last day on earth? And how does this change on your last day? Don’t know about you but I’m with Mateo:
“Because I refused to live invincibly on all the days I didn’t get the alert, I wasted all those yesterdays and am completely out of tomorrows.” — Mateo Torrez, September 5, 2017, 12:42am. Also, page 10.
That is so me. And since I read this line, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend in my house, on social media, working, wasting time, watching the clock, sleeping in late, not taking the sort of chances that the future Alex might regret. Rarely has a book affected me so personally. Don’t get me wrong, many have made me question myself and the world around me. Even more have touched me deeply. But this one has got it’s hooks in me and, I gotta say, I’m still chewing on it.
They Both Die At The End is Adam Silvera’s answer to that scene that comes up in books, in shows, in memoirs, in oral histories, in which all the woulda-shoulda-couldas are lamented because someone, somewhere didn’t know that they, or someone close to them, was about to be no longer part of this Earth. But the effect isn’t exactly linear. You see, once Death-Cast exists, an entire Decker industry. That is, there are apps and worlds and clubs and virtual realities made for making the most of a Decker’s End Day. And it isn’t always the thoughtful existence one would hope it might be.
Take, for example, the call. The receiver of the said phone call has just had the rest of their life handed to them with a less than twenty-four-hour notice; this will be their only call. The sender of the call, on the other hand, makes dozens of calls between the hours of midnight and three in the morning, and sound like adverts for prescriptions. Not the part where the drug saves your lives, no. The part where the drone on and on with all the potential side effects of taking this drug, except in this case there is no possible about death. That part is certain.
Or, so they say.
Enter the Last Friend app. For Mateo, it’s his chance to not be alone. For Rufus, it’s his chance to make sure his friends won’t have to see him die. Neither Mateo and Rufus realize what meeting each other will mean for either of them. Mateo is the guy whose first act (other than leaving a clean house for his dad, who happens to be in a coma) is to write thank you letters to his neighbors and Rufus is the guy who gets the call while he’s beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Mateo’s the guy imprisoned by his insecurities and Rufus is the guy who knows he can do better. They needed to find each other and by the end of the day (and the end of the book), each is unrecognizable and so very alive.
What you may not like: I can’t even imagine. You’re going to have to read it and tell me.
What you will love: …what? Oh, sorry. Are you waiting for me? I’m busy counting. There are so many ways. Ridiculous numbers of ways.
But seriously—no one writes connections, and especially friendships, like Adam Silvera. I wish I were one fraction of any one out of the many friends he writes. That said, because I’ve been reading his work, there might be a small chance of my improving as a human being. No promises. I’m just saying the possibility is a definite maybe. Not only that, the side plots involving the people who make appearances throughout the book—from the Death-Cast heralds to people each has met separately in passing—add another layer of interest, providing examples of how humanly impossible it is to know how interconnected we are and of how beautiful that is. It’s like he believes we’re all planets it one ginormous solar system.
Though the prose is clever and straightforward, there’s more to it than initially apparent. There’s a beautiful symmetry in the beginning of the book with the end. Each chapter links up to the next, borrowing a phrase, a thought, a feeling from what one person had just said in order to kick off the next chapter.
Okay, I’m gushing and I need to stop. If not for your sake, then mine. Just…gah…read this book. It’s wonderful.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra