Adam Silvera has created another tear-jerker with his most recent release, THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END (which I will call “TBDATE” from this point on). TBDATE follows Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio on their end day, September 5th, 2017. Mateo and Rufus live in a present day, futuristic society where a company called Death-Cast calls “deckers” 24 hours before their final day to allow each person to make amends before their inevitable death. The main characters use a creation called The Last Friend App to meet and live out their last 24 hours together. Throughout the story, Rufus and Mateo develop a unique relationship that lets them discover the value in living each day like it is their last, which indeed it is.
My favorite part about reading Adam Silvera novels is the complex and diverse elements that are contained within his writing. Adam schemes up countless amounts of plot lines that are rarely seen in other young adult novels. In the case of TBDATE, Adam creates institutions like Death-Cast, The Last Friend App, Make-A-Moment and the Travel Arena to immerse the reader in his futuristic society. As a reader, I imagined what my life would be like if I lived in Rufus and Mateo’s world.
Envision a society where one can get a call from a company warning them of their end day. How does Death-Cast receive this information? What science are they using? I would have loved to have seen this topic explored in the novel more in-depth, but I do love the tension and mystery behind Death-Cast and how it adds to the story, especially considering how robotic and unanimated the workers there behave. They must deliver consistent catchphrases and follow basic protocol for every single decker they dial without showing any emotion. Imagine how depressing and morbid that must be! For some reason, I have come to expect this type of content from Adam Silvera novels. In the case of TBDATE, I cannot say he did not deliver.
Secondly, I really appreciated the addition of Last Friend into the plotline. This application feels entirely realistic based on the world Adam has created. When Rufus and Mateo sign up for Last Friend, their inboxes immediately flood with messages filled with spam-like content, including inappropriate jokes and hook-ups, much like one would find on any other modern day social media application. This slight humor added into the story actually creates quite brutally honest commentary. No matter the conditions, there will always be people that take a purposeful product and turn it into a laugh.
“My favorite part about reading Adam Silvera novels is the complex and diverse elements that are contained within his writing….Silvera is one of those gifted writers who can continually create heart-breaking stories that leave the reader reeling until the very end.”
Next, Adam introduces the reader to Make-A-Moment. For the readers that are not familiar with the institution, essentially Make-A-Moment was designed to give deckers a thrill inducing experience without the danger element behind it, which in a normal situation, could potentially threaten a decker’s life. I love how Adam used this “Make-A-Wish” like place to communicate the overall theme of the novel, in order to live life to the fullest, one must make real moments, not fake ones. Rufus and Mateo end up being really disappointed by their experience there. They are two teenagers looking to have worthy adventures to cap off their final day on Earth. Who would want a fake substitute when placed in such dire circumstances? Finally, Adam presents the Travel Arena to the readers. This museum allows all people alike to experience different types of adventures all across the globe without having to leave New York. Rufus and Mateo explore London, Jamaica, Africa, Cuba, Australia, Colombia, Egypt, China, and South Korea all within eighty minutes. Even from reading the words off the page, the Travel Area feels so realistic and alluring. This type of magic creates an experience that Make-A-Moment never could. In all, I love the way Adam developed his world with several unique places that add to the plotline of TBDATE.
Now, let’s focus on our main characters. For starters, I absolutely fell in love with Mateo. There is a beautiful scene in the beginning of the book where Mateo buries a dead bird and it completely broke my heart, especially knowing that someone would be doing that with him by the end of the novel. This moment in the story encapsulates his character beautifully. He is an innocent, sweet teenage boy who has a deep love for the people closest to him. His father is in a coma at the beginning of the story. When getting the call, Mateo’s only hope is that his father will awaken, so that he can say goodbye before the day ends. Mateo’s best friend, Lidia, and her daughter, Penny, are his other concerns. With Lidia being a single mother, Mateo wanted to be able to provide for his friend and her daughter. This development of Mateo’s character completely tugged at my heartstrings. It made me appreciate him so much more.
Now, Rufus is a different situation. I did not entirely connect to him as I did Mateo, but that could be due to the fact that their characters are almost polar opposites. When the reader first meets Mateo, he is beating in his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend with the help of his fellow gang members, the Plutos. All of them are in the same orphanage. Rufus’s background and how he ended up in this orphanage is explored in the novel and I do have to admit it made me soften up to his character. Something that I love about Mateo and Rufus is that they are diverse characters. Mateo is Puerto Rican and Rufus is a Cuban-American bisexual. Readers have come to expect this type of representation in Adam’s novels and he always delivers. With this diversity, there is also the relationship that forms between Mateo and Rufus. Adam develops this plotline perfectly. Many readers complain about insta-love in YA novels, but the bond that grows between Rufus and Mateo is anything but. The two characters come together as they try to live out a lifetime worth of memories in 24 hours. They share their deepest secrets and insecurities with each other. The bond they form is unlike any other, especially with the context it is based upon. This relationship is beautiful and by far my favorite in any of Adam’s novels, so far.
Adam Silvera is one of those gifted writers who can continually create heart-breaking stories that leave the reader reeling until the very end. The struggle with TBDATE, compared to Adam’s past novels, is that the reader has an expectation going into the story. The reader most likely assumes that Rufus and Mateo will die by the end of the novel. The title pretty much indicates that very idea. What would be the point of reading a story, just waiting for a character to die at the end? What’s the purpose of this story if the reader supposedly knows what is coming? Throughout his book, Adam perfectly answers these questions in the way he knows best: with twist, turns and continual heartbreak. I sobbed throughout the entirety of this novel. I promise that you, the reader, will, too.