“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.”
My Thoughts: I finished They Both Die at the End a week ago, and I still do not know how to adequately put my thoughts and feelings about it into words. It tore my heart in two and stomped all over it. At the same time, it made me so happy to be alive and inspired me to live. I am still overwhelmed by the plethora of emotions Mr. Silvera’s words created in me. Plus, I am in awe of his ability to capture the human experience so well. I have only read one of his other books, but if the rest of his works are as impressive as this one, consider me a life-long fan.
The funny thing is that Mr. Silvera does not hide how the story ends; it is in the title after all. You should be prepared for a sad ending before you start reading the first page. What he does however is make you forget the ending or at least valiantly hope that Mateo and Rufus can beat the prediction. He does this by making you care about the characters to such an extent that you forget they are fictional. He does this through cadences and word choices that are authentic to the age group. Plus, he does not just write about these characters; he becomes them. You get the feeling that he is writing about his own experiences and relationships, and it makes his characters richer and deeper than almost any other characters you will discover.
In a book like They Both Die at the End, it would be so easy to drift into a philosophical discussion of the pros and cons of the existence of Death-Cast. After all, its existence begs the question of whether these deaths would occur if the people did not have advanced warning of them. It is a different take on the chicken versus the egg conundrum and is something Mr. Silvera almost completely avoids. There is a part of you that wishes Mateo and Rufus would discuss this if only because it is something that seems to be staring you in the face. Instead, Mr. Silvera keeps his heroes on task with living their last day, and after a few chapters, you see the wisdom in that. In a novel that is about living, philosophical discussions have no place, and debating the what-if possibilities surrounding Death-Cast does nothing but waste time when time is precious. This is a lesson we can and should extract for our own lives.
They Both Die at the End will go down as one of the best books I have read all year. It is so simple a story but so profound with lessons worth learning no matter what age you are when reading it. Mateo and Rufus are every reader who has ever felt misunderstood, afraid, angry, anxious, lost, and lonely. Plus, their burgeoning friendship is a simple joy to watch unfold. They Both Die at the End is not an easy read, knowing how it ends, but in reality that is life. We all die at the end. As Mateo and Rufus discover, what matters is how we spend the time while we are alive. Reading Mr. Silvera’s latest novel is an excellent way to spend some of that time.