“No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.”
The year is 2017, the place is America, but this is not a place we recognise. A company called Death-Cast know the exact date of everyone’s death and make it their mission to inform Deckers that they will be dead within the next twenty-four hours. Many have tried to cheat death, all have failed.
In the early hours of 5th September, two complete strangers hear the dreaded shrill of Death-Cast calling – their time is up. Mateo Torrez, preserved in the safety of his room, has never truly lived. Rufus Emeterio, fuelled by danger and adrenaline, has no idea who he really is. Both have their End Day to find what they are looking for and leave their mark upon the world.
Mateo is familiar with the Death-Cast system and when the call connects, he is prepared. His Mother dead and his father in a coma, Mateo has no-one but his best friend, Lidia – a single mother to his goddaughter and no stranger to loss. He wants his last day to be a happy one, free from grief and sadness, but most importantly he wants to live before he dies. For this reason, he downloads the Last Friend app and searches for someone to share his last, precious hours with. Here he finds Rufus. On the run from the police for assault, his family dead and his friends MIA, Rufus reaches out to Mateo and makes it his mission to help him truly live, for the first and last time.
Rufus, confident yet misunderstood, and Mateo, reclusive and cautious, form an unlikely friendship throughout the duration of their End Day as they both learn from, and complement, each other. The pair spend their time exploring their sentimental places, virtual skydiving and experiencing the world in 80 minutes and, soon enough, their friendship blossoms into something more, making the ending even more tragic.
Silvera’s third book is nothing short of a masterpiece. From start to finish the reader is haunted by death, never knowing when it will appear and steal someone away. Silvera’s characterisation is the strongest part of this novel. Mateo and Rufus are such incredibly relatable, three dimensional characters. You cannot help being sucked in to their world and attaching yourself to their lives. I was even compelled to search and follow Rufus’ famous Instagram account that we encounter in the narrative.
We watch them grow, overcome their obstacles and form a promising romantic relationship – almost forgetting the tragedy that awaits them. Silvera makes it explicitly clear, They Both Die at the End, but that glimmer of hope remains. Maybe these two will be the first to cheat death? Maybe Death-Cast made a mistake? Surely such young people, with so much to learn, cannot be taken this soon? The reader is left begging and pleading for a happy ending but Silvera’s novel is too realistic to grant us our wish. With a beautifully structured ending, Silvera ties up all loose ends and leaves us with the acknowledgment that life is not fair.
I was very pleased to see a homosexual relationship as the core love story throughout, a story that is far too often overlooked. It contributes greatly to YA fiction and provides a relatable, coming of age narrative and highlights the issues often encountered with exploring one’s sexuality. However, I was slightly disappointed with the development of the romance. Silvera’s subtlety throughout makes the sudden admission of love slightly unbelievable which is a shame considering the strong characterisation in this novel. Personally, I would have preferred to see the relationship develop more explicitly.
This novel’s grippingly dark concept will have you turning every page with eager anticipation. You will find yourself compiling a list of the things you would see and do on your End Day. You will ask yourself Would I want to know when I am going to die? and you will most certainly take Silvera’s strong message with you. Only death is certain. There cannot be life without death like there cannot be love without loss. This message will haunt you long after the last page and you’ll find yourself a little more appreciative of life. As Silvera reminds us, we must live and love every waking moment of our lives, for we never know when death will come to claim us.
I would give this 4.5 out of 5.