#BookReview They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera @simonschusterUK

They Both Die at the EndAbout 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

Purchase links
Bookshop.org
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme


My Review

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

Follow this blog via Bloglovin


Adam SilveraAbout 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)

Connect with Adam
Website | Twitter | Instagram 

#BookReview When The World Was Ours by Liz Kessler @simonkids_UK @BagsofBooks

WTWWO-blog-tour-twitter

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for When The World Was Ours by Liz Kessler. My thanks to Eve at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Sarah at Sarah’s Vignettes.

For the duration of the blog tour, you can purchase signed copies of When The World Was Ours from independent children’s bookshop, Bags of Books.


When The World Was OursAbout the Book

Three friends. Two sides. One memory.

Vienna, 1936. Leo, Elsa and Max have been best friends for years. Since the day they met they’ve been a team of three. But then the Nazis come, and their lives, once so tightly woven together, take very different paths.

Leo must rely on the kindness of strangers to escape the rising threat to the Jewish people.

Elsa, like Leo, is hated for simply being who she is. To be safe, she must run.

Max suddenly finds that he is the danger his friends are trying so desperately to escape as his father rises through the Nazi ranks.

Format: Hardcover (320 pages)          Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 21st January 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find When The World Was Ours on Goodreads

Purchase links
Bookshop.org
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme


My Review

Inspired by the true story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, in When The World Was Ours the author takes the reader on a journey from Vienna in 1936 to the outbreak of the Second World War and beyond in the company of three childhood friends – Leo, Max and Elsa. Since Leo and Elsa are Jewish, the lives of the three children, and their families, are destined to take very different paths.

Given their youth, the friends don’t always understand, at least to begin with, the full import or implications of the things they see or hear their parents discussing. Only gradually do the youngsters become aware of the consequences of Leo and Elsa’s Jewish faith when anti-Jewish sentiment becomes more widespread and is followed by legal restrictions, and worse. It results in the three friends being separated, unsure if they will ever see one another again.

The author really captures the emotional and psychological toll of their experiences on the three children and the insidious nature of Nazi indoctrination. This is especially evident in the case of Max, who emerges as the most complex character and the only one of the three children whose thoughts are communicated in the third person. His mental contortions as he tries to reconcile what his conscience is telling him about his friends with the anti-Semitic hatred he is being fed by his father and the authorities is hard to witness. “Before long Max had convinced himself Leo and Elsa weren’t Jewish at all. They couldn’t have been. And if they weren’t Jewish then Max didn’t have a problem.”

Max’s fourteenth birthday evokes memories of an earlier birthday shared with Elsa and Leo – captured in a precious photograph – and a rare moment of self-awareness. “In an instant, nothing of his current life was real. He saw it for what it was: a vain, superficial attempt to fit in. To be loved. To be praised by his father…”. Unfortunately, it’s short-lived thanks to the intervention of his father who forces Max to demonstrate his loyalty to the Nazi regime in the cruelest of tests. It is not the last time he will face such a test.

Amidst the heartbreak and tragedy, there are small moments of joy. For example, Elsa’s delight in acquiring a best friend, Greta, and their joint adoption of a cat they feed with scraps. Or Leo’s pride at overcoming the obstacles to getting himself and his mother to safety. These provide a counterpoint to some of the truly chilling scenes in the book: the school assembly at which Jewish children are singled out; the day Max accompanies his father to work and its location is revealed; and, later, Max’s feeling that it is “his destiny” when found a job at his father’s new posting.  It’s difficult not to get a sense of foreboding also at Elsa’s hope that the outbreak of war against Germany means, “Everything is going to be all right. I can feel it in my bones and in my heart”.

The fact the book is written from the perspective of the three children makes it both accessible and educational for teenage readers. But it also has much to offer for older readers like myself. As we look around the world today, Elsa’s reflection should provide us all with food for thought. “How rapidly something unthinkable can become commonplace. How easily we let the inconceivable become a new normal. How quickly we learn to stop questioning these things…”

In war, there are rarely happy endings and books, even if works of fiction, that recount the events of the Holocaust are often difficult to read. At the same time, books like When The World Was Ours are an inspiring testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the kindness of strangers.

In three words: Moving, heartbreaking, powerful

Try something similar: The Young Survivors by Debra Barnes or People Like Us by Louise Fein

Follow this blog via Bloglovin


Liz Kessler © Jillian Edelstein
Liz Kessler © Jillian Edelstein

About the Author

Liz Kessler has written more than twenty books for children and young people, including the internationally bestselling Emily Windsnap series. She has an MA in Novel Writing and has been a full-time writer for the past twenty years. When The World Was Ours has been brewing in her heart for at least half of that time.  Liz lives in the north west of the UK with her wife, Laura, and their dog, Lowen.

Connect with Liz
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

image009