By Valia Nikolaidou,
When it comes to young adult (YA) novels, I must say I have been pretty predisposed against them, lately. I have spent my fair share of money on buying YA books during my teenage years; and then, thoroughly discussing them with other fans on the well-known app, Tumblr. So naturally, I thought as a 21-year-old with much more mature taste in literature, I could not be able to enjoy a YA novel like before; I was dead wrong. I had heard of They Both Die at the End (2017) many years before the appearance of TikTok, but it was the “Booktok” trend that persuaded me to give it a try.
It is a novel by American author Adam Silvera, a prominent figure in the genre of young adult books and an important LGBTQIAP+ activist. The premise of the story basically revolves around one whole day in September. A revolutionary app called “Death-Cast” is able to predict – almost always – accurately when it is someone’s last day on Earth. The first protagonist of this story is Mateo Torrez, a timid and lonesome young boy that spends most of his life on his own, without any friends. When he receives the fateful text, he decided to download an app called “Last Friend”, specifically created for people to find a companion on their last day.
He is matched with our second protagonist, Rufus Emeterio, a Cuban-American, street-smart teen who lives in a foster home. The two boys decide to spend their last day together and go on various adventures all around their city. Even though they know each other only for a few hours, their bond grows closer and their relationship is not strictly friendly by the end of the day; they grow fond feelings for one another and share a very short-lived teenage romance. Their wish to defy the system and avoid death so they can spend more time with each other sadly fails. The title of the book is completely true; no matter their attempts at spending their last hours together in the safety of Mateo’s house, unfortunately, they both die in the end.
With various accolades and awards, They Both Die at the End has a very large internet following consisting mostly of youngsters and members of the LGBTQIAP+ community. While not an overtly LGBTQIAP+ story from the start, it is a nice surprise how there is a healthy representation, especially in Rufus’s case; despite of his background, he is very open about the fact that he identifies as bisexual and mentions it casually in his conversations with Mateo. Their short-lived love story (if it can even be considered a love story, taking into account how little time they have actually spent with each other) gives a great example of a healthy affair between two guys, without any stereotypes.
A prequel to this novel, The First to Die at the End, was released in 2022 and gives an insight into how the “Death-Cast” app had its first start and introduces a new and similar love story. Moreover, the original is currently in development to become a Netflix series, with the famous Puerto Rican rapper and singer Bad Bunny and Bridgerton creator Chris van Dusen working as producers.
Even though the subject of death is very delicate and very difficult to grasp, this story manages to be heartwarming and positive in its own way, while at the same time raising some great philosophical questions concerning the meaning of life, death, and fate. It is not a light read and you will probably cry by the end of it, but I highly recommend it!
- Book Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, bookishelf.com, Available here
- Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, adamsilvera.com, Available here