They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera is a heartwarming and raw look into the topic of death.
The story follows our two main characters, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio. Mateo is a reserved eighteen-year-old. His dad is in a coma and he’s extremely antisocial and afraid to do anything. Rufus, on the other hand, is a seventeen-year-old orphan. He has a gang known as “The Plutos” based on their orphanage. He’s also the sole survivor of a car crash that killed his whole family.
Each of these characters has received a call from a group known as the “Death-Cast.”
This group essentially calls people on their “Last Day” on Earth. They simply and let them know they have less than 24 hours to live and hang up. There’s no other details as to when or how this death will happen, simply that it will. From there, the “Decker” (or person on deck to die) is free to live their last day however they choose.
In addition, there’s a website/app known as the “Last Day Friend.”
Here, people can try to connect with other Deckers and spend their last day together. Options like this are convenient for people like Mateo, who sits alone in his apartment cleaning dishes and refusing to go outside after his phone call, and Rufus, who witnessed his family’s deaths after they received their Death-Cast call and doesn’t want any of his friends to have to live with the horror of watching him die.
While the two of them are sorting out their lives and trying to deal with the fact they’re about to die, they wind up meeting through the app and deciding to spend their Last Day together.
The rest of the story just chronicles the adventures of the two Last Day friends as they live their final hours. Between visiting Mateo’s father in a coma to being on the run from the police after Rufus almost beat somebody to death, this book takes a close look at a question we’ve all asked ourselves before:
If we knew we would die today, what would we do?
Outside of the characters actually having to face that question, it also focuses on the idea of living every day as though it were your last, always. Both characters go through a wide array of thoughts as they try to cope. What would they have done differently if they’d known they wouldn’t survive their teens? How would their lives have been different if they’d treated every day like a Last Day? The “convenience” of the Death-Cast is knowing at least 24 hours in advance that you’d die. Why live life with any fear until that happened?
Personally, I really related to a lot of the conversations about death in They Both Die at the End. Having recently lost my father when I read it, I think this is a great book to help deal with grief on this topic.
There were many conversations about what happens “after.”
There were also many discussions about how those who are left behind feel.
There’s no way out of death, which is just the truth of life. One conversation that really stuck out to me was one Mateo had with himself. He talked about wishing people could choose their own Death Day and be able to live out their lives as they wanted.
However, there are two issues here:
One, that would essentially just be suicide. That would also give people the option to just, like, give up whenever they wanted.
Two, part of the reason he thought about that was feeling bad about the grief he’d leave behind in the wake of his death between his father and his best friend, Lydia. If someone were to choose their own Death Day, it still wouldn’t prevent those left behind. They have to go through their grieving process one way or the other. The person who dies may live out their fulfilled life as they wanted. The people left behind will still suffer from it one way or the other.
Although I genuinely did love They Both Die at the End, there were also a few issues I had with it by the end.
Very often, we’re introduced to some sort of side character. It’s either someone who’s also on deck to die or someone who’s related to someone that has something to do with the main characters.
At first, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
By the end, I was just tired of meeting anybody new.
I also felt like a number of the characters didn’t really actually have much of a conclusion to them. That just made it a little more difficult to connect with them. There was only one other character — Delilah Gray — whose ex-boyfriend worked at Death-Cast that received a call she viewed as a prank from him. Hers was the only other storyline that was interesting in the book. Any story that took away from Mateo and Rufus just seemed moot.
I wouldn’t have even minded some other books set in this universe with other people, like Delilah, receiving the phone call and what they would do. That, or I would have liked for any of these side characters that had nothing to do with Mateo or Rufus at least meet them at some point.
Regardless, They Both Die at the End as a whole was intriguing, thought-provoking, and oddly heartwarming while being completely tragic and sad at the same time. The development of the friendship between Rufus and Mateo is one of the more heartwarming elements found here. There’s so much focus on love. Love specifically surrounding death, that it just casts a line of hope around the topic.
None of that takes away from the pain of actually losing someone, though.
Even the parts that are dealt with tactfully and gracefully still suck when it comes to the actual topic at hand: Death.
Death comes for us all in the end. They Both Die at the End really did its best to drive home the point of living while you have the chance. There are many opinions about the usefulness of Death-Cast in this world, sure. The point of its purpose remains the same: