They Both Die at the End is one of the most emotionally raw novels I’ve read in a long time. It makes no illusions as to how heartbreaking it’s going to be – it’s right there in the title. Even so, there were bright moments of hope and an overarching theme of finding yourself and living your life to its fullest extent.
On September 5, 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 reasons, they’re both looking to make 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.
Even though the ending is in the title, I found myself hoping against hope that the book would somehow not end tragically. Again, even though the ending was in the title it didn’t cut down on the suspense and tension of the book. It was subtle, but it built well as the book left you guessing how the two characters would meet their ends. There were plenty of red herrings that set the stakes high and served to build the relationship between Mateo and Rufus. It’s this clash of wishful thinking and realistic thinking that really made this book emotionally special. Also, the concept of Death Cast (a company that will call you to warn you that you’ll be dying that day) was very original – and a breath of fresh air in YA.
There was one part of the plot that felt wholly unnecessary – Delilah’s subplot. She also received a call from Death Cast, but instead of trying to live her life to the fullest, she believes her fiance is pranking her. While this could have been an interesting contrast to the main story, it just served as filled and didn’t really add any value. Not enough time was spent on this story, so it felt half baked. Also, despite the fact that she dodges death several times, she never develops as a character or truly faces her fate. It was a boring addition and I feel like it should have been left out for the sake of the rest of the plot’s pacing. The rest of the plot was very well paced and felt very well balanced. Although the ending is one that you will either love, or completely hate.
The best part of Mateo and Rufus being Last Friends is the contrast between the two of them. Mateo is a shut in who has lived his life watching others live. Rufus is an orphan who had to experience the loss of his entire family. When he receives his Death Cast call, he’s in the middle of beating up his ex-girlfriend’s current person. He’s a complicated person. The two are complete opposites, but as they spend the day together, their characteristics begin to converge. Mateo begins to be more outgoing and daring, and Rufus begins to live less recklessly and cares more deeply about those around him. Their friendship builds quickly, but their romantic relationship take a much slower and more organic time to build.
This book is one of those special novels that will really stick with you long after you finish it. It’s an interesting and original concept that was used to its fullest extent. If you want to read a book that is deeply emotional without being emotional pandering, this is the book for you. 4/5