“Hello. I’m Calling From Death-Cast”: The Enduring Life and Legacy of ‘They Both Die at the End’ by Adam Silvera


“For those who need a reminder to make every day count.”

To some readers, September 5 is just another normal day, but if you’ve read They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, you know that September 5 is the day Silvera introduced Rufus and Mateo to the world … and it was also the last day of Rufus and Mateo’s lives. Over the past few months, the story of these two teens has climbed its way back up the bestseller lists, a little over three years after its initial release. And rightfully so. Rufus and Mateo’s story continually proves itself as one worthy of attention. In honor of the well-earned success of the book, we take a look at why Rufus and Mateo hold such a special place in our lives.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, They Both Die at the End focuses on Mateo and Rufus, two teenagers who receive a call from Death-Cast informing them that they’re going to die sometime during the day. (Yes, they really do die at the end.) Through an app called Last Friend, Mateo and Rufus connect and spend their End Day together, determined to live their final day to the fullest. The idea itself is a clever one and asks the question, “How would you spend your last day if you knew you were going to die?” Silvera crafts a world that’s intriguing in its own right – one that’s led to introspection from readers that continues to this day about the logistics of a world with Death-Cast. (And it’s a pretty nifty premise for a TV show…)

The story unfolds primarily through Rufus and Mateo’s viewpoints, Silvera alternating their chapters. It’s a structure that works over one first-person POV or a third person POV, as it allows each of their perspectives to take time developing, giving insight to how realizing the day is their last affects them. We’re offered the chance to take a more intimate journey with Mateo and Rufus, watching them grow as individuals and as a pair. Silvera also includes chapters with POVs from characters who received a call and who works for Death-Cast. We get to see the world through multiple characters that create a certain wonder (even through the sadness). The story is character driven, and even with the speculation about Death-Cast, Silvera never once compromises the integrity of his characters or their stories. He brings us through a dynamic cityscape, painting a vivid picture. Each location holds some sort of meaning, whether a personal one for the characters or a more general one for the overall story. Silvera includes suspenseful moments that make you wonder, “Is THIS how they’re going to die?”

Like every Adam Silvera book, They Both Die at the End is one that will cause a swirl of emotions within you and definitely rip your heart out (thanks, Adam). But also like every Adam Silvera book, it’s done well and leaves a trail of lessons behind that help make the story what it is. Mateo and Rufus don’t only teach each other a few things along the way, but they also teach us. They force us to think about our own mortality, going back to that big “what if you knew” question. Rufus and Mateo’s quest to live a full life in a single day, one in which literally anything could bring about their demise, creates a surprisingly hopeful tone. Reading about how the two make an effort to live despite knowing they don’t have long stirs something deep within you. Silvera highlights the importance of family – specifically found family, which is more prevalent than blood relations. He also places emphasis on not only the relationships we have with others, but also the ones we have with ourselves and how we relate to the world.

They Both Die at the End continues to prove why it’s worthy of our attention. It’s a thought-provoking story that explores some of the questions I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves asking often. Mateo and Rufus are charming and relatable characters who we’re okay living in our minds rent-free. Silvera crafts a haunting yet beautiful story about life and death, and one that hits in all the right places. It’s a story that packs a hefty punch but also holds a lot of comfort within its pages. So here’s to Rufus and Mateo, whose story will continue to impact us for years to come.

Purchase a copy of They Both Die at the End here.

Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds who joined the team in 2019.

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