They Both Die at the End Book Review Synopsis
“They Both Die at the End” is a young adult novel by author Adam Silvera that follows two teenage boys, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio, on the last day of their lives. The story takes place in a near-future version of New York City where a mysterious company called Death-Cast makes phone calls to people on the morning of the day they will die.
At the start of the book, both Mateo, an anxious and lonely 18-year-old Puerto Rican boy, and Rufus, a 17-year-old Cuban-American boy with a traumatic past, receive the ominous phone call from Death-Cast informing them they have less than 24 hours left to live. Seeking companionship in their final hours, Mateo and Rufus connect via the Last Friend app that matches people who have gotten their death calls.
As total strangers from very different backgrounds, Mateo and Rufus decide to meet and spend their end day together going on a last great adventure in New York City, pushing each other outside their comfort zones. Shy Mateo finds boldness he didn’t know he had, while emotionally guarded Rufus opens up about the deaths of his parents. Along the way they befriend each other and even begin falling in love. However, the threat of their imminent deaths lingers over them.
They visit important places from their past, make new happy memories, and say goodbye to loved ones like Mateo’s comatose father. When Mateo’s friend Lidia learns he is going to die, she insists on spending precious final moments with him as well.
After a dramatic confrontation with Rufus’ vengeful ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend, Mateo and Rufus return safely to Mateo’s home. Tragically, Mateo is suddenly killed in a gas explosion while making tea, unable to escape the predetermined fate delivered by the Death-Cast phone call. A grieving Rufus rushes to help but it is too late. Rufus then goes to the hospital to visit Mateo’s father one last time before he himself is struck and killed by a car while leaving, just as Death-Cast foretold.
Through this emotional story of two boys finding friendship and love in their final hours, author Adam Silvera explores themes of mortality, living life to the fullest, and the power of human connection. The book garnered great popularity, especially among teens, for its devastating yet uplifting messages about making the most of the time you have left.
They Both Die at the End: Main Characters
18-year-old Puerto Rican boy who is shy, anxious, and lonely. He receives a call from Death-Cast informing him he will die in less than 24 hours.
17-year-old Cuban-American boy with a traumatic past involving the deaths of his parents and sister. He too gets the call from Death-Cast that he will die soon.
Mateo’s friend who dropped out of high school when she became pregnant. Mateo says goodbye to her and her child.
Rufus’s ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend who Rufus beats up at the start of the book. He comes seeking violent revenge against Rufus later on.
The nickname for the group of orphans including Rufus who live together in a foster home. They have a funeral for Rufus when they find out he is going to die.
Rufus’s ex-girlfriend who is part of the group called the Plutos. She breaks up with Rufus and starts dating Peck, fueling Rufus’s anger.
They Both Die at the End: Themes and Tropes
A major theme in “They Both Die at the End” is mortality and what it means to truly live. After receiving the Death-Cast calls informing them of their imminent demise, both Mateo and Rufus grapple with existential questions about making the most of the little time they have left. Their last day becomes infused with special meaning. The book suggests it is only when facing death that we can properly value life. Related to this is the common “seize the day” message to take chances while you can. Rufus pushes timid Mateo out of his comfort zone to embrace new adventures and connections. There is also a prevalent theme about human relationships and their importance for a meaningful existence. Mateo and Rufus realize they do not want to die alone, which drives them to meet. Their unfolding friendship as they show new sides of themselves teaches that mutual understanding is what bonds people.
Some classic tropes are the “opposites attract” dynamic between the main characters, as bold Rufus helps wallflower Mateo emerge from his shell. Their budding romance as bonded soulmates also employing the “love at first sight” idea. The futuristic concept of the Death-Cast calls informing people exactly when they will die adds a dose of drama and fatalism. The death of protagonists trope usually suggests no one is safe. While the book telegraphs its tragic ending in the title, the relationship between Mateo and Rufus still engages readers through the relatable themes of living fully and seeking meaningful companionship, even in our final hours. Overall, while using some well-worn tropes, the book aims to tell an uplifting story about what truly matters in life.
They Both Die at the End: Writing Style
Silvera crafts an engaging narrative voice that feels youthful and contemporary without trying too hard to sound overly “teen.” The dialogue reads as authentic, with Rufus using some light slang like “mad” and “lit” that gives him a bit of gritty edge. Silvera has a talent for natural-sounding teenspeak. Yet the language never becomes so steeped in trends that it would sound dated shortly after publication. There is a balance between timeless emotions and modern lingo.
The writing style smoothly shifts between the alternating perspectives of different characters. Despite employing multiple points of view, the transitions flow easily. Silvera handles the changes deftly, signaling them with the character’s name as a chapter heading. The pacing feels steady, slowly revealing layers to Mateo, Rufus, and the secondary characters. Backstory details emerge organically through conversations and inner reflections rather than chunky exposition.
An interesting technique is how Silvera structures much of the book around a series of “lasts” for the condemned characters. There is power in documenting final meaningful moments, from Mateo’s last trip to see his comatose father to Rufus’ last dance at the club. The repetition of last acts makes the inevitability of the boys’ fates all the more stark. It also showcases Silvera’s skill at wringing potent emotions out of everyday activities rendered more poignant by their air of finality.
Silvera crafts vivid sensory details, bringing settings and scenes to life. When Mateo and Rufus visit a virtual reality studio to experience simulated skydiving, the descriptions of sights and sounds make the reader feel present in the scene. Little sensory mentions like the smell of detergent at Lidia’s apartment or the chill winter air amplify key moments. Silvera knows how to use tangible details to fully immerse the reader in the fictional dream. His imaginative premise combined with sensory writing makes the story all the more affecting.
Overall, Silvera employs a lean, propulsive style well-suited to the deadline countdown premise. He writes with economy and intimacy, adeptly conjuring the preciousness of life through the lens of its inevitable end.
They Both Die at the End Book Review: Final Verdict
“They Both Die at the End” lives up to its relentless premise, delivering an emotional gut-punch. Silvera succeeds in making readers care deeply for the doomed Mateo and Rufus, while confronting universal themes of mortality, lost chances, and the redemptive power of human connection. The storytelling pulls no punches, as the boys’ fate closes in on them all too soon. Readers are left reckoning with the book’s sobering messages about making every moment count before it slips away.
With its focus on the young characters’ inner lives and personal growth, this novel will appeal strongly to teens. The balance of levity and tragedy also channels a youthfulness. Yet its profound examination of regret, fulfillment, and living fully should resonate with readers of any age. The specificity of the Latino representation adds layers of interest as well. Those facing their own grief or pondering unfinished business may find the book’s seize-the-day rallying cry inspiring. Ultimately this is a book for anyone seeking to rediscover a sense of meaning and urgency amid the inexorable march of time. Skeptics might dismiss the outlandish premise, but Silvera grounds the human truths at the story’s core. This is a book bound to make readers want to call a dear friend…before it’s too late.
- I spend my days immersed in the world of books, finding solace in their pages. In my spare time, I transform into a critic, penning reviews that unravel the magic and mystery of each story. This passion for reading is not just a hobby; it’s a part of who I am.
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