Release date: September 5, 2017
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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.
In the tradition of Before I Fall and If I Stay, They Both Die at the End is a tour de force from acclaimed author Adam Silvera, whose debut, More Happy Than Not, the New York Times called “profound.”
I received a review copy of this novel from HarperCollins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I love contemporary and I love Adam Silvera but I did not love They Both Die at the End. I found it to be quite underwhelming in its world building and plot and didn’t really connect with it at all. Adam Silvera’s two previous novels both made me cry but I didn’t really feel a single thing as I was reading this book (besides a moment when one of the characters visited his dad who is in hospital… but only because my dad recently passed).
The plot and premise of the novel itself is quite intriguing. Main characters, Mateo and Rufus, both find out from Death-Cast that they are going to die that day. But they don’t know when and they don’t know how. Both of them sign up to an app called Last Friend and become each other’s Last Friend, meaning that they get to spend the day together, doing things that they would never do otherwise. Now this sounds like a wonderful story with lots of adventure and character development (at least until they die), but I was quite disappointed with the plot. The book lacked excitement and adventure and I felt like I was literally just watching two kids walking around New York City, not doing much at all. The premise of the book reminded me of Denton Little’s Deathdate, which I highly enjoyed, and was kind of disappointed that They Both Die at the End didn’t really live up to my hype. And don’t even get me started on the ending…
I also had a really big problem with the lack of world building and explanation in this book (and now that I think about it… Adam Silvera’s other books too). There was no explanation of how Death-Cast works or how it even came about. While I can forgive this in a near-future contemporary, I can’t really forgive it in a book that is set in 2017. I wanted much more background on the whole system and there was really none given at all. Because I’d already read about a very similar system in Denton Little’s Deathdate, this novel and this world really needed a lot more to capture my attention.
I did like Mateo and Rufus as characters and I enjoyed how different they were. Mateo was very much the quiet and passive one of the two and Rufus was kind of the bad boy. I liked what they did for each other and how their characters grew throughout the course of the day that they spent together. But I didn’t really find their friendship to be that special and I also didn’t really feel any spark between them. Which brings me to the romance in the book. I found the romance to be quite unnecessary and I felt that it detracted from the story. It felt forced and really reinforced my current dislike for books that throw in a romance even though there are stronger and more important themes to be explored in the book.
Despite all my criticisms, I did like the writing in the novel. Adam Silvera’s prose is beautiful as always and I really liked the extra POVs of minor side characters that he threw in. It added to the narrative of the book and I found that it made the novel much more interesting to read. They Both Die at the End is definitely not one of my favourite contemporaries of this year but it did tick all the boxes when it came to writing and tone.