Is it true? Do they really die at the end? Well, the Grim Reaper certainly stalks through this book, but it’s also very much concerned with big, bold, shining life. Teenagers Mateo and Rufus inhabit an alternative New York City, one in which an agency known as Death-Cast informs citizens when their demise is near. Death will occur within 24 hours, exact means and time unknown. When this dark fate befalls Mateo and Rufus, they embark on one last grand adventure, to live a lifetime in a single day.
‘On behalf of Death-Cast, we are sorry to lose you. Live this day to the fullest.’
This is an intriguing premise for a novel. Both Mateo and Rufus are facing their ‘End-Day’. Previously unknown to one another, they meet via an app: The Last Day, which is designed to offer friendship and support to those unfortunate souls facing the kiss of Death.
Mateo and Rufus are very different characters. Rufus is simmering with hurt and rage, this crackling negative energy pushing him towards rash deeds. Mateo, fragile and introspective, feels he has barely lived. His meekness has defined his life and made it small. Maybe together they can discover what their lives truly mean.
One chilling scene depicts the boys visiting Mateo’s mother’s grave, only to find two grave-diggers preparing Mateo’s very own grave, complete with date inscribed headstone. This unfolds into a bleak loveliness, as they climb into the open grave and sit sharing thoughts about life and the cosmos.
Adam Silvera certainly tackles all the big stuff here, and puts the reader through the emotional wringer. The sense of urgency is well sustained as the boys fill their 24 hours with colour. Mateo and Rufus both have their treasures to share, but I particularly liked the unfurling of Mateo’s bravery, his decision to reject fear and stride out into the world.
‘A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for’
They Both Die at the End is published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK, 384 pages.