They Both Die at the End — Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End — Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End is a story of two teenagers, Mateo and Rufus, who discover—via app called Death-Cast—that they will die in twenty-four hours. They are paired to be “Last Friends” (also via app), and the story is moved forward by their alternating POVs, with quick POV chapters from side characters that add to the story.

The idea is fun. Bite-sized chapters make it easy to hop from one POV to the next, and I appreciated the main focus on all-or-nothing friendships as the last hurrah. I enjoyed this shift from true love being the end game, and while there is romance in the book, it is built on trust and shared experiences, which are ultimately more important.

I was a little surprised to find out that, aside from an app that predicts death, this does not really feel like a fantasy/sci-fi read. We never find out why things are the way they are, and no one questions them. The app is simply embraced as part of life, so life goes on like normal—aside from the “carpe diem” vibe from folks on their End Days (which mostly means getting discounts in restaurants and experiencing risky activities in virtual reality, like skydiving). I feel like I had to re-calibrate my expectations halfway, when it was clearer I was wading in YA contemporary territory.

I did like how the book captured the small things that go wrong with online connections, and it’s sad that the looming presence of death in the book doesn’t (and in the real world probably wouldn’t) change anything, lol. Like people who find out about their End Days can post classifieds looking for a “Last Friend,” and even they get bombarded with dick pics and other solicitations. There’s an app for one-night stands aimed at people on their End Days. It’s awful and black-humor-hilarious.

Where I struggled a bit was how we learn about the characters. There is a lot of exposition thrown into the prose, not exactly as info dumps, but crammed into one-liners. Many actions, even mundane ones, connect to a past event somehow, which often took me out of the story. I’m okay with flashbacks, but these were more like one-liners that did not really go anywhere. It made the pace feel a bit unnatural, and while I saw the sentimental notes the book was going for, they didn’t really hit as hard as they could.

Still, They Both Die at the End is a fast read that I finished in a couple of days. It is optimistic, sentimental, and great if you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up.

Key words to help you decide: multiple POV, LGBTQ+, POC characters, YA contemporary, death app, carpe diem, sentimental, power of friendship, light romance

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