Some books have a very cryptic but beautiful titles, like Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined. Other books have titles which give away a hint of what you can expect, like One Of Us Is Lying. And then there are books that just have a plain spoiler in the title and you’ll know what happens without reading one chapter. They Both Die At The End is a book with a major spoiler as the title. And yet, this book will still surprise you. Even though yes, they actually both die at the end.
So this is probably a sad book, right?
Surprisingly, not so much. They Both Die At The End is more about life than about death. But let’s start at the beginning, which is the plot. Praise the Timelords for Goodreads:
When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…
They Both Die At The End takes place in the not too distant future of our world. Death-Cast can predict everybody’s death to the day. The company doesn’t know how you’ll die, just the day it’ll happen. There’s no coming back from receiving their phonecall. If your death is predicted, you will die. So both protagonists receive the call you never want to get; especially not if you’re just 17 or 18 as Rufus and Matteo.
Why should I read this if I know the ending?
As said, They Both Die At The End is about life. Throughout the entire book, I found myself questioning ‘what would I do?’ It’s not often a Young Adult book makes you think about death and dying. What would you do if you knew you were going to die today, while in the prime of your life and not in any way ill? Would you visit friends and family? Maybe you’d make amends with that one person who hurt you so much? Or would you stay locked up at home, hoping no one else would get hurt? It’s such a hard question which hopefully, we will never have to answer for sure.
No one goes on, but what we leave behind keeps us alive for someone else.
The two protagonists both download ‘The Last Friend’ app, on which people who are dying can connect. They decide to share their last day together. Adam Silvera does some nifty writing here: even though you only get to know Matteo and Rufus for less than 24 hours, you get to know them. You’ll learn their backstories, their feelings and fears. The fact that these two sweet young adults are going to die, is so heartbreaking. But it’s written incredible and crazy enough, also pretty believable.
Fate vs Free Will
Despite the fact that They Both Die At The End is, as said, believable, the whole Death-Cast setting is weird as hell, obviously. And if you think about it too much, it will mess you up. So during reading, I just went with it. This is just how that setting works. Don’t question the ‘magic’. But after finishing it, it brings about the philosophical question of fate versus free will. Can you escape fate? Is everything set in stone? Does free will exist? So yeah, this book stayed with me for longer than most books. It brings up so many questions about life and mortality.
I cannot tell you how you will survive without me. I cannot tell you how to mourn me. I cannot convince you to not feel guilty if you forget the anniversary of my death, or if you realize days or weeks or months have gone by without thinking about me.
Even though you know the ending; even though the book is about life and not about death; and even though this is not a sad book… This will mess you up. If you can handle a tough subject that’s beautifully written, with two very loveable main characters, this is the book for you. Just be ready for lot’s of questions about (your) life.