They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
YA Fiction, LGBT, Death
Hardcover, 373 pages
In an alternate version of our world, Death-Cast is a service which calls people when their time of death is near. The only things they are told is that they will die within the next 24 hours, that they will be missed, and that they should make the most of their final day. Teenagers Mateo and Rufus–strangers to one another–have both received the call and through the Last Friend app, they befriend one another in the hopes of living their End Days to the fullest.
Upon reading the first page, I knew immediately that I would like this so much better than History is All You Left Me (read my review here).
Both books deal with death in very different ways. History is more about human grief and how we come to terms with our history with a deceased love one, whether it was satisfactory or not enough, whether there were things unsaid or secrets untold.
In this story, Silvera normalizes talking about death. We’ve all heard the phrase “there is no life without loss.” But we never really talk comfortably about our own deaths and the fact that probably everyone thinks about death in some way, even if they don’t say it out loud.
Here, everyone knows what Death-Cast is and it is a regular part of life–getting that dreadful phone call when your End Day has arrived.
Something that I believe is not discussed at all is that it is possible to think about death and not be suicidal. It’s not strange to wonder about when or how your life might end. There’s a difference between wanting to die and questioning when the time might come. There’s a difference between planning your own death and wanting to know how it might happen. Silvera takes one of our greatest fears and lays it out in the open through this book.
Death-Cast callers tell the next to die that their deaths are untimely and that there is nothing that can be done to suspend them. But the exact nature of how one will die remains unknown. I think that not knowing how leads to a lot of interesting self reflection. A lot of good people die young, from old age, from illness. So, I think the questions of when you die is inevitably unanswerable because there’s no good reason for even the kindest person to die early–but it has happened and still does.
But the answer to how one dies leaves a lot to be speculated. Maybe the answer lies in how you’ve treated others while you were alive or maybe how others in your life have died. But it’s possible that you die in a totally unpredictable way. You could be at the wrong place at the right time. I also think not knowing how you die leads you to either plan ways to prevent your death or face it head on. Mateo, at first, avoids leaving his home, while Rufus decides to host his own funeral with his closest friends.
Silvera uses an alternating POV storytelling style which is very similar to Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also A Star. Mateo and Rufus are the main characters, but readers also gain insight into the lives of other relevant characters and seemingly irrelevant characters throughout. I quite like this style because the intertwining of different people’s lives along with the protagonists’ reminds me that the main narrative is just a microcosm in the grander scheme of things. Sometimes you have to look outside to have a better understanding of what is inside.
In general, They Both Die is actually a very good readalike for Yoon’s story, both because of the way the narrative is related and the built-in concept that “one day can change everything.” Noteworthy: The Sun does focus on very different issues (immigration, the American dream, and love at first sight).
Once again, Silvera blows me away with his wonderfully human writing. It would be a privilege to have him write my story and End Day because I think he would write both genuinely. I think he would find all the things worth writing about in my own life that I would not even think twice about.
Verdict: Painfully beautiful, inevitably tragic, and surprisingly full of hope. I was so proud of myself when I didn’t cry during the last few chapters. But the moment I turned the last page and saw what came after, I bawled my eyes out.