They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the EndThey Both Die at the End
by Adam Silvera
Published 2017 by HarperTeen
384 pages. DRC
Genres: Fiction, Speculative Fiction, 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. [Goodreads]

I’ll be honest: in the beginning I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with these characters, particularly Rufus. By the end, though, they became a lesson to me that people aren’t always what they seem. Great character development is something I love in novels and something I’m always looking for in YA. Mateo and Rufus both have truly beautiful character arcs. I went from a little disconnected (which makes perfect sense in hindsight) to so emotionally invested in them that I was talking out loud to my book. I’m always a little skeptical of a story that takes strangers to true love and friendship in the span of a day but Adam Silvera pulled it off beautifully.

The pacing is a bit uneven, but I think it works out well as its own literary device in this particular book. In the beginning, things are a little slower. It’s not uninteresting, just a bit of a slow burn. About halfway in, things start to pick up and the possibilities of death start stacking up. The stakes get higher for Mateo and Rufus, so they get higher for the reader. It goes from sadness to anticipation to true loss. I love the short perspective shifts in the book. Silvera throws in quick moments from different people who come into contact with Mateo and Rufus throughout the day. It reminded me a bit of Ask the Passengers (one of my favorite books ever). Those really put into perspective how little interactions or proximity can make big differences.

The world-building in this novel was great. Silvera did such a good job exploring the ways companies might cash in on something like this as well as how people might use it as an opportunity to take advantage of people. I really loved some of the attention to the setting. Silvera did well illustrating how cities can be their own worlds, full of adventure.

Like Silvera’s previous two novels, there is a tone of melancholy to this book. How could there not be when its about impending death? He approaches it all so beautifully though. It’s not depressing. It just has a sense of realness. There are moments of sadness, fear, and loss but there are also moments of love, happiness, and courage.

I always display what I’m reading on a small whiteboard at my desk. When a student asked me about this book, I got a chance to pitch it to her. She said it sounded so awesome. I think there’s a lot of appeal here. The title grabs attention. The premise is the kind that most of my students would find interesting. Most importantly, I think the story will get them thinking about things: mortality, courage, love, friendship, and the things that are truly important. I’m really tempted to throw it out there as an option for Summer Reading. At the very least, I’ll float it as a book club possibility.

Award Winner! They Both Die at the End won the following honor: Rainbow List Top Ten Selection (2018).

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