Have you read a book in which the author claims that the character must die and then doesn’t fulfill that promise? This is NOT that book. If you think Death Cast is a meet-cute plot device, you should probably NOT read this book. If you think fate will somehow intervene, rendering the title meaningless, then again, do not read this book.
They Both Die At The End is the story of Rufus and Matteo, who spend their last day on Earth together. Yep, both of these teenage boys have received a phone call from Death Cast indicating that they will die some time that day. They don’t know when, or how, but they know that Death Cast has rarely (if ever been wrong).
Matteo and Rufus could not be more different. Matteo spends most of his free time on the internet, reading Count Downers or playing video games. He lives in fear of leaving his own house, lest he invite death in sooner. Rufus recently lost his family in a horrible car accident (thanks Death Cast) and now lives in a foster home. He loves to bike and hang out with his friends. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, the two seek each other out on the Last Friend app (an app for making friends before you die!) and spend their final hours together — showing each other what it really means to live.
The best part about They Both Die At The End – aside from the main characters’ friendship and the actual dying – is the bisexual representation. Yes, I am starting this review with REPRESENTATION. Representation is key! I do not care if you think what people do in their “private” lives is none of your business. Rufus is such an adorable cinnamon roll (ignoring all of his faults, like punching his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend in the face, okay?), and he is bisexual, and totally chill about it. I loved his relationship with Matteo, and I loved that they were friends before anything else happened. Plus, I love that they didn’t just randomly smash when Matteo was clearly not ready for that.
Matteo’s social anxiety is the second best thing. Yep, just continuing on this representation train. I’m not saying social anxiety is a good thing. I’m saying having characters with clear mental health issues is important and should please, please, please continue. Matteo spends so much time following Count Downers and being afraid to leave his house that he never gets the chance to live. That is the best part about Matteo and Rufus’s friendship — they bring out the parts of each other that would otherwise have been missing. It’s what makes Rufus and Matteo’s friendship so essential in their final hours together. Rufus helps Matteo leave the house, and Matteo helps Rufus to cope with the loss of his family.
Sometimes, friendship is just enough. I have never read an Adam Silvera novel, so I cannot really say whether or not this is true, but when I picked up this book, I expected an LGBT-style romance to develop. I didn’t expect tragic-friendship-turned-beautiful-first-love romance, okay? The entire premise of this book — that you receive a phone call telling you it’s your day to die — is heartbreaking. Knowing that Rufus and Matteo only had one day together, I didn’t expect their relationship to really go anywhere, especially not with Matteo’s trepidation. The pacing of their relationship and what happens towards the end of the novel are absolutely perfect (no bias here). Sometimes, friendship can be just as beautiful as romantic love, and sometimes, it can blossom into something better.
If you say a character is going to die, please kill them. Not to be heartless, but I’ve read enough of the trope where “character must die in order to fulfill the prophecy” and then are saved through some plotty error. I like that this book is exactly what it says on the tin! This may not be the book for you if you are expecting serendipity to step in and save the day. No, Death Cast does not make an error — at least in the case of Rufus and Matteo. Yes, they both die at the end of the book. Yes, you should probably still read it. I promise you that it is worth the heartbreak.
Death Cast will never be explained. This is not a novel about Death Cast. Silvera does not explain how Death Cast works — how it knows people will die, how it was set up, etc. This isn’t that sort of book, and if that’s the sort of question that will bug you, this isn’t the book for you. The purpose of They Both Die At The End is not the sci-fi elements, but the human element. It’s about seeing what happens when you receive a phone call foretelling your death and what you would do with that information. That is the story of Rufus and Matteo, and sometimes, that doesn’t always work out how we planned it.
So, should you read They Both Die At The End? Yes! My overall recommendation is that you read this if you want to see more LGBT representation (especially bi boys!), a cute friendship, and an utterly heartbreaking ending. You should NOT read if you’re looking for more developed sci-fi, a happy ending, or something that takes place over more than a day.