Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinion of the book whatsoever. 

You've seen the title. You know what's coming. But you still aren't prepared. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera will tease you with the promise of young love, fulfilling dreams and facing deep-rooted fears. But it will ultimately leave you feeling crushed and a little exasperated (in the one-of-a-kind Silvera way that the author has mastered since writing History is All You Left Me.)

The writer in me disliked a few aspects of the story (which I'll get into later.) But it's easy for me to look past those things knowing what this book stands for and seeing the potential is has to positively effect young readers. The story stars Mateo and Rufus, two queer boys of colour. One is hard-edged and a little rebellious, the other lives anxiously and is afraid to leave the comfort of his room. But both share the pain of losing loved ones and both know how important it is to appreciate the life you have, even in the face of devastating loss. It was honestly painful getting so close to these characters when with every page you know what's coming. I wanted to charge into the narrative and save them, stop this horrid End Day business from happening. But I couldn't. No one can. No one can stop the inevitable, death, from doing its thing.

Despite its morbid premise, They Both Die at the End is probably going to help so many teen readers in a way that publishing has failed to in the past. The boys are diverse characters, yes, but they don't serve as tokens. I love how Silvera planted these boys in a diverse world--because that's a genuine reflection of the world around us, no matter how hard bigoted people wish it wasn't. But most importantly, the book shows teens that their voices, dreams, interests and insecurities matter.

I think I would have clutched this book to my heart as a teen. But the adult is me is a little pessimistic, and I think that impacted my reading experience. I didn't enjoy how the dialogue felt stiff and very educational--like the characters were often lecturing each other on the importance of living your life to the fullest. It's a message that's been done to death (I'm sorry) but to be fair, maybe it's one that teens need to hear.

Other than these two small issues, I enjoyed They Both Die at the End and I can't wait to see what else Silvera puts into the world. Although this book has teen readers in mind, it reminds us all of the importance of chasing your dreams no matter how big or small they may be.

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