(Review originally published on March 9, 2020)
The best moment to die is when you’re no longer afraid to.
There’s a completeness when you have fulfilled yourself as best you can and taken the steps needed to be everything you wanted to be. You allowed yourself wins, moments, and risks. Rippling out, you have affected people you know, don’t know, and people who aren’t even alive yet. So, when your time comes, you are no longer afraid to be missed, because you know you will be celebrated. Even if it’s just by a small pocket of existence.
Welcome back guys. I’ve been stalking this book since it came out in 2017. I’d read a good chunk of it for work and was never able to finish it. I’ve read a lot of end-of-the-world premises, even in YA but never had I read one that was just about people and their time to die. It seemed so mundane and to be honest, incredibly morbid. However, I was intrigued by what their last day would mean to them and others. So I was given the privilege to follow Mateo and Rufus as they try to live 100 years in a day and discover through each other, everything they’d been missing in their young lives. And all of it because of a phone call.
They Both Die At The End hit me hard from the very beginning as I’m someone to whom death is very close. I was already tearing up when it sunk in for Mateo that he was going to die and his father would never know until after it happened. What truly made this book for me though, was the slow-burn friendship and later romance between Mateo and Rufus as two people dealing with all the things they never did and said but determined not to do this alone.
I feel that the Death-Cast System can be viewed as evil, but I also think that’s a mistaken view. I feel that the reality of this book, it gives you something we all wish we had. Warning. But most importantly, an opportunity. A blessing. How many of us wish we knew what was going to happen so that we could just say everything we couldn’t and do everything that we never did. Or at the very least, say goodbye before we exited. In the book, they have 24hrs to make peace and be who they always wanted to be with no worry for the consequences.
From Mateo branching out and being open to new experiences after playing it safe to Rufus reconciling his anger and survivor’s guilt over his family leaving him behind when they all received their call on the same day. In one night, they take the opportunity to grieve, to shout, to curse at how unfair it all is and then they begin to celebrate the life they had as well as the one they could’ve had. Most importantly, Death brought them to each other and they found love and acceptance in the final moments when most wish they could’ve. They found peace. So, in the final moments before Mateo dies, he feels invincible. In the final moments when Rufus dies, he’s happy and has something to look forward to and that’s finding Mateo.
Even if their deaths are abrupt and wrong, who they became before the end were people who understood how to live and how to regret nothing. As well as people who, intentionally and not, gave others more reason to live and keep moving forward.
Adam Silvera isn’t a prolific master of prose or anything. Like most YA, the writing is simplistic, easy to read, and something that can be flashed out in a single evening. His characterizations manage to be deep and relatable despite there not going into much depth. He is very good at implied depth and allowing you to draw your own conclusions about each. Each person still feels relatable. The dialogue felt very realistic and I could actually picture these kids as real teens dealing with the death of someone they care about and how lost they feel. The romance was very well written, managing to be slow-burn despite it happening in 24hrs. I believe I liked most that it allowed them to be in love without the strange, disconnecting feeling of it happening way too fast or being unbelievable. I think Silvera has a knack for the mundanity of real life and uses it to paint these beautiful and complex experiences for his characters even if they seem like something as normal as riding on a train. I would love to see what he would write if he did an adult book and gave himself more room to explore outside of this category. In the end, Silvera seems like he has a lot he wants to say and I feel he will say it no matter what. I appreciate that about an author.
While I absolutely loved this book and everything it stands for, I probably won’t read his others as their premises don’t interest me. I tend to choose my books solely on the premise and the others fall a little flat for me. That being said, They Both Die at the End is a stunning take on Mortality and the finite nature of existence that I highly recommend if you are searching for something that explores just life in general.
Despite the morbidity and bittersweet subject matter, They Both Die at the End offers hope. A voice to remind you that your life is both your own and other people’s and if you aren’t doing exactly what you desire, if you aren’t celebrating each day, if you aren’t being honest with yourself about who you are, and what you desire, you are wasting it and will regret. You are important in some way – even to people you will never meet – and if you are truly living then there’s nothing to fear. After all, We All Die at the End.
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