Wednesday, September 27, 2017

[Review] They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy)07/09/2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Genre: YA {Contemporary | GLBT}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

My Rating
4/5 stars
My thoughts

US Cover
With a title like They Both Die at the End, are you surprised to hear that they both die at the end? Me neither. That's not a spoiler, it's an irrevocable fact, a truth irreversible and unchangeable, predetermined by fate or destiny or maybe it's just some cruel psychic with a gargantuan crystal ball, doling out doomed lists of people who will meet their end within 24 hours of that dreaded phone call from a member of Death-Cast. And that's basically all you should need to know about this book, going in: they are going to die. Somehow, it doesn't make their deaths any less upsetting, I suppose, in the same way that it doesn't make a palliative patient's death any less than it was. Knowing doesn't exactly translate to acceptance of the inevitable.

So, story time. It must have been last year that the US cover was revealed for this book. I loved the colour scheme, with its thousand shades of blues contrasted against slivers of white. I loved that there were silhouettes of two teenagers, with the ominous long shadow of Death following their seemingly leisurely stroll across a bridge in NYC. And the title, that title is so perfect. It was instantly placed at the top of my wishlist. Last week I was perusing Netgalley and stumbled upon this book. Like a reflex, my mouse scrambled for the "Request" button and my fate was sealed: after all these years, They Both Die at the End would be the first book I got to read before its publication date.

They Both Die at the End is written in multiple POVs: primarily 18-year-old Mateo and 17-year-old Rufus, who are the 'they' mentioned in the title, and each of their stories begins with the call from Death-Cast. I grew to like both guys and sympathise with their situations. Silvera did a great job at establishing unique and memorable voices, and the writing style was perfect. Mateo is the biggest sweetheart ever: he spent much of his life holed up in his room, afraid to take risks, and now that his End Day is finally here he is slow to get out of that room and finally live. Following his thought processes was just so comical, how he kept making excuses to stay at home, like Oh, I don't want my dad to come to a messy home and then having a meltdown, and lurking through the Internet for other "Decker" stories (something he loves to keep updated). It is only when he installs "Last Friend", an app where you can connect with people to spend time with on your Last Day, that he meets Rufus. That is, after a few hours of messaging trolls, as you might expect of the Internet.

It's kind of a double-edged sword, it seems, this Death-Cast system they have in this alternate (?) reality. On the one hand, it's nice to have a warning that your time is up: most people don't seem to get that (cue: Rufus throwing a funeral for himself). But on the other, it can also just paralyse you and bring up even more issues, like it might make people off themselves (but then there's this weird Catch-22 - maybe if they didn't get that call they wouldn't have done this or that? But then, maybe it would have happened anyway? I'm just confusing myself now). This world is a strange one indeed, and there isn't much explanation about why or how this system came about. I kind of hope that Silvera is going to write some sort of origin story about how this world came to be.

The two guys become friends soon enough, and then some, and I was left feeling a bit sad that they didn't even get 24 hours to spend together. It does bring up a strong message that it isn't always about the quantity of time that you spend with someone, but the quality, and all things considered they made those hours together count. They helped each other live. I appreciate that the author writes gay characters in his books, but I wish that they had just been friends? I don't feel like it was necessary, nor did it feel organic to me, but 1) I am a straight female so I can't possibly understand homo/bi-sexual teenage males in the way that homo/bi-sexual teenage males can, and 2) They had <24 hours to get to know each other, so the progression of their romance was super sped-up, which I know makes sense given the little amount of time they have left, but still.

I did like reading their adventures together, and how things turned out for their loved ones. Mateo's friendship with Lidia is sweet and heartbreaking. Rufus has a tight-knit circle from the others at his foster home, the Plutos, and I also liked reading about them. They're so loyal towards one another, and the amount of trouble that they get into so that Rufus can spend his Last Day not in jail is really amazing. Loyal to the end, these guys. Not to mention the devastating fact that Mateo's dad is in hospital and unable to see Mateo before dying.

They Both Die at the End is a sobering exploration of death, and living, as we follow two teenage boys who are going to die today. Told with wit and humour, Silvera reminds us of the importance of living life to the fullest - after all, we don't get a warning in this world when we're going to die.


"I approach the elevator and peek over my shoulder at Rufus, this stranger who's following me. I don't feel uneasy, but I am guarded. He talks like we've been friends for a while, but I'm still suspicious. Which is fair, since the only things I know about him are that his name is Rufus, he rides a bike, he survived a tragedy, and he wants to be the Mario to my Luigi. And that he's also dying today. (25%)
"'You're right. You're totally right. It's all going away, everyone and everything is dying. Humans suck, man. We think we're so damn indestructible and infinite because we can think and take care of ourselves, unlike pay phones or books, but I bet the dinosaurs thought they'd rule forever too.''We never act,' Mateo says. 'Only react once we realize the clock is ticking.' He gestures to himself. 'Exhibit A.' (56%)


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