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.
Young Adult / Contemporary / 384 pages
They Both Die at the End is an interesting book that makes you think. Note that I listened to the audiobook version and did not read the physical book.
They Both Die at the End takes place in an unique world: In this hypothetical near-future world, an organization called Death Cast has data on who dies within the next 24 hours, and will contact these people (called “Deckers”) by phone. Because of this, there are also other businesses that are set up to cater to Deckers, such as the Last Friend app, which pairs Deckers up with other Deckers, or with non-Deckers, so that they will have someone to spend their last moments with before they die. There is also the Make A Moment company, which simulates thrilling experiences, like sky-diving, and there are bars and clubs where Deckers go to party it out for one more night. And because people get advanced notice before they die, this also makes for some interesting experiences: you can watch your own grave being dug, or you can attend your own funeral among friends and family. Even though They Both Die at the End is classified as a contemporary novel, some aspects of this novel strikes me as being science fiction (in a good way.)
Mateo and Rufus both won my heart from page one. Mateo is a sweet and kind boy who loves to read and play the piano. However, he is afraid to go outside and face the world, and he enrols in online courses to be able to stay inside the house. Rufus is the exact opposite: he is surrounded by a close-knit group of friends and he is not afraid to get into trouble. In the beginning of the novel, Rufus is beating up another guy for getting in between him and his girlfriend. As Mateo and Rufus get to know each other through the Last Friend app, they both have something to teach each other: Mateo learns to take risks, and Rufus learns to be kind.
Though most of the chapters are told through either Mateo or Rufus’s points of views, the story occasionally shifts very briefly into points of views of minor characters, like Zoe and Delilah (other Deckers who are called by Death Cast), or Andrew and Victor (employees of Death Cast), or Mateo and Rufus’s friends. These chapters add some interesting insights to the story: Like, how does a friend feel when he/she knows that you’re going to die in a day? Or, how does it feel to work at a company who notifies people of their deaths? Or, does a celebrity have any regrets when they know they are about to die? On the other hand, there are so few paragraphs devoted to each supporting character, that I don’t feel connected to any of them, nor am I interested in how they think. I keep on wanting to speed through these sections and continue reading about Rufus and Mateo.
As to be expected, this premise leaves some food for thought: What would you do if you know that you had less than a day to live? Would you want to know that you have less than a day to live? These are all important and worthwhile questions, and we see how different characters approach this: Mateo decides that he wants to take more risks, doing things that he would be scared to do before, including seeking a Last Friend. On the other hand, Delilah chooses to deny the fact of her death completely. While I appreciate that the book talks about the theme of death without hesitation, there are times when I wonder if it is too repetitive and not subtle enough.
The writing is great, but… it’s pretty depressing. There are books out there about depression or grief that somehow packs in some pockets of humour (I don’t know how the authors do it), but this one does not joke around. Because of this, the book is a bit of a heavy read. It was harder for me to get through compared to some of Adam Silvera’s other books, like History is All You Left Me.
The audiobook is good. I have no qualms about it.
The Bottom Line:
They Both Die at the End is an interesting read for days when you are feeling philosophical.
Have you read this book, and what did you think about it? If not, will you be reading this book? Would you want Death Cast to exist in our world and call us when we are about to die in the next 24 hours?
[Images are courtesy of Amazon and Goodreads]