They Both Die at the End

by Adam Silvera

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They Both Die at the End is a work of science fiction that explores a world where technology can accurately predict the day on which a person will die. Without ever needing to open the book, readers are made aware of how the story will end: the novel’s protagonists both die at the end. The inevitability of the titular deaths is emphasized at every turn: each character is introduced with a line indicating whether or not they have received a call from Death-Cast, and each section is marked with a timestamp, reminding readers that all of the events take place within the same twenty-four-hour period. 

With each section, time moves forward, pushing readers closer to the inevitable conclusion and allowing them to share in the sense of urgency felt by the characters. While deckers know that they can die at any point within the day they receive their Death-Cast notice, they also know with certainty that they will not survive past midnight. Every moment is rendered precious in this fragile state of existence. Death is an imminent reality, but every moment a decker survives is also made to feel like a small victory.

Living in a world where death can be predicted down to the day has had lasting social, economic, and cultural impacts. Deckers have become both a product and a demographic, with their content—such as livestreams featuring their End Day experiences or videos featuring deckers “kill[ing] themselves in the most unique ways possible”—being marketed primarily to those who are not dying as a form of entertainment. Because he is a celebrity, Howie Maldonaldo does not get to spend his End Day doing what he wants. Instead, he is convinced to do an interview, and he ultimately misses out on the chance to go see the woman he is in love with. Death, in this way, has become a commodity of sorts. 

Even people who don’t treat deckers as sources of entertainment seem to struggle with how to react to them. Andrea, a Death-Cast employee, treats deckers as though they are no longer human in order to make her job easier. Rae the diner waitress is overly polite and sympathetic, and Mateo and Rufus have to insist on paying for their meal. Mateo is generally uncomfortable with people knowing that he is a decker, as he worries that it will “ruin their day” or otherwise make them uncomfortable.

However, for all that death can make people uncomfortable, the novel also emphasizes how meaningful it can be to share one’s End Day with the people they love. Mateo is initially determined to avoid telling Lidia that he is going to die as he does not want to burden her. However, Lidia reminds Mateo that he is never a burden to her. Their friendship is a great source of comfort to both of them, and Mateo’s decision to include Lidia in his End Day allows them to properly express their feelings and obtain a sense of closure that neither of them would have received had Mateo committed to his original plan.

Similarly, Rufus sets out to have a proper goodbye with the Plutos and his foster family. The eulogies make him emotional, and he feels “vulnerable and seen.” While it is awkward to hear his friends and chosen family talk about him in such effusive terms, it is nonetheless a meaningful exchange. When the police arrive and interrupt Rufus’s funeral, he is left with a sense of grief and discontentment. Rather than getting to say goodbye on his own terms, he is forced to flee, which is made all the worse...

(This entire section contains 745 words.)

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by the knowledge that his friends have been arrested trying to help him. 

The group reunion at Clint’s Graveyard represents true closure for Mateo, Lidia, and the Plutos. Rather than forcing or formalizing the moment, they get to dance and laugh together one last time in an authentic expression of joy and togetherness. Even though Peck’s machinations once again interrupt the moment, nothing can truly dissolve the bonds that exist between families of choice. “No matter when it happens, we all have our endings. No one goes on, but what we leave behind keeps us alive for someone else.” In the end, spending time with their loved ones fortifies Rufus and Mateo, and the Plutos and Lidia take up the task of living on and carrying forward the memories they left behind.