About the Book
On September 5th, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but for different reason, they’re both looking for a new friend on their End Day. The good news: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure – to live a lifetime in a single day.
Format: Paperback (368 pages) Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 7th September 2017 Genre: YA, Contemporary Fiction
Find They Both Die at the End on Goodreads
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops
This book illustrates the joy of a book club because They Both Die at the End is not a book I would have ever chosen for myself but which I absolutely loved. Other members of the book club had trouble with the whole concept of an organisation like Death-Cast but strangely enough, although I usually shy away from any element of fantasy in a book, this didn’t bother me. I think this was because I just let myself get swept along by the story of Rufus and Mateo.
Obviously it’s a bold move by an author to publish a book with a title that is effectively a spoiler but it’s just one of many clever touches that I really enjoyed. The book switches between the perspectives of Mateo and Rufus over the course of their last day, occasionally interrupted by other characters who come within their orbit, even if that’s only that they passed them in the street or served them in a shop.
The two boys each have their own characters. Mateo is socially awkward, risk averse and solitary by nature (and necessity) but has a loving nature witnessed by the letters he leaves for his neighbours and his reluctance to let his friend Lidia bear the burden of knowing he is going to die. Rufus is more assertive and worldly owing to the fact he has had to be independent from an early age. However they also have things in common like finding themselves without family. (Mateo’s father, although alive, is in a coma.)
Starting the day as strangers, the pair gradually become friends and eventually close companions as they share a series of experiences akin to a bucket list but one produced in the moment rather than prepared in advance. I liked the way the book distinguished between manufactured ‘fake’ experiences designed for those who’ve received the Death-Cast call and more meaningful real experiences. In the course of the day, the pair begin to take on some of the characteristics of the other; Rufus encouraging Mateo to be more adventurous but in turn absorbing some of Mateo’s natural generosity.
A book where both characters die at the end sounds like it’s going to be sad to read – and it is really sad at some points – but there’s also humour as well such as some of the responses Mateo receives on the Last Friends app. I especially enjoyed the Travellers Game Mateo and Rufus play while riding the subway.
If I had to sum up the message of the book it would be carpe diem (seize the day) because you never know if it might be your last. ‘We never act’, Mateo says. ‘Only react once we realise the clock is ticking.’
In three words: Clever, witty, tender
About the Author
Adam Silvera is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of They Both Die at the End and More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me and Infinity Son and Infinity Reaper and with Becky Albertalli, What If It’s Us and Here’s to Us. His next book The First to Die at the End releases October 4th, 2022, with the final Infinity Cycle book to follow soon after. He was born in New York and now lives in Los Angeles where he writes full-time. He is tall for no reason. (Bio/photo: Goodreads author page)