Let’s not mince words: this book is going to rip your heart out. Don’t expect last-minute reprieves for the characters you will come to love. Death comes for everyone, and the message of this book is that since you never know when it’s going to happen, you shouldn’t waste your life. In the case of this story, yes, Mateo and Rufus get an extra day to accomplish some of that living, but the endgame is still the same. Rufus wanted to travel and take photos, and Mateo wanted to be an architect. Neither will get to live their dreams, and no amount of living in the course of less than 24 hours can make up for that.
One of the things that this book does extremely well is in highlighting the relationships in our lives and what they can mean to us. Each boy has people in their lives whom they love, but not in the sense of romantic love, and when they finally get to express that love, the sense of freedom is palpable. I especially liked Mateo’s deep connection with his friend Lidia, seeing how the two loved each other in a way that transcended any attempts to pigeonhole it. I have just such an opposite-sex friend myself, one who means the world to me, and seeing something similar in a story was so heartwarming.
I felt connected to this book on a really personal level, because in many ways, I identified with Mateo. He was someone who holed up in his room a lot, watching movies and playing online, and he wasn’t one to get out and experience the world. I was like that myself for a long time, but I’ve been able to change that in recent years. In fact, I’m in the middle of planning a trip to Ireland; as a result Mateo’s journey towards life, and his realization that it’s okay to have a place to feel safe, is one that I can vouch for as accurate.
I haven’t said as much about Rufus, but not because I didn’t like him. I just identified more with Mateo. But Rufus is a portrait of someone who is heading down a darker path and is lucky enough to be able to turn his life back around. The fact that it takes place in less than 24 hours doesn’t make it any less true.
That’s another message from this book: the amount of time that something takes is less important than the fact that it happens. Mateo and Rufus find each other when each has less than a day to live. That in no way invalidates what they do for each other, and what they become for each other. The experience is what counts, in whatever form you want that experience to take.
I hope that this book gets widespread attention, because with all the fears and uncertainties of life lately, a story with a message to get out and live is so incredibly vital. They Both Die at the End reminds of us where we’re all going, but also what we can accomplish along the way if we truly want to.
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)