3 Sentence Summary
“They Both Die at the End” is a young adult science fiction novel by Adam Silvera about two teenagers, Mateo and Rufus, who receive a notification from Death-Cast that they will die by the end of the day. Set in a dystopian version of New York City, the two strangers meet via the Last Friend app and decide to spend their last day alive together. The book has a unique tone that is both melancholic and bittersweet.
Summary Read Time: 4 minutes
Actual Book Length: 389
First Published in: 2017
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book They Both Die at the End:
Mateo and Rufus are two teenagers who receive calls from Death-Cast, an organization that informs them they have only 24 hours left to live. Mateo downloads the Last Friend app, hoping to find someone to spend his last day with, and ends up meeting Rufus. The two boys go on a journey to experience life before they die.
Throughout the day, Mateo and Rufus make decisions that are both meaningful and adventurous. They bury a dead bird, visit the hospital to see Mateo’s comatose father, and give money to a homeless man. They also bond with each other and share secrets, making the most of their time together.
Meanwhile, a young reporter named Delilah learns that she too has only 24 hours to live and decides to report on the death of a famous actor. The book is a thought-provoking exploration of life, death, and human connection, as Mateo and Rufus learn to live in the face of their own mortality.
The two teenagers, Mateo and Rufus, decide to take a break from visiting loved ones and have breakfast at Rufus’s favorite cafe. There, they have a heart-to-heart conversation about their aspirations in life. Mateo is hesitant to ride on the back of Rufus’s bike, so they decide to walk to Lidia’s apartment. Once there, Mateo explains why he doesn’t want to tell Lidia he’s dying, and Rufus stays downstairs while Mateo goes up to see Lidia and her daughter. Mateo drops off an envelope of cash and sneaks away, feeling guilty for not being able to tell Lidia the truth.
Later on, Rufus reveals his tragic backstory to Mateo, explaining how he lost his parents and sister in a car crash and has been in foster care ever since. Mateo realizes that Rufus isn’t a bad person and invites him to a Make-A-Moment station to do virtual skydiving. While on the subway, Mateo falls asleep and Rufus takes a photo of him sleeping.
They later visit Mateo’s mother’s grave and discover that someone is digging a grave next to hers. As they continue their journey, they stop by a pier where Rufus finally gets closure from his parents’ deaths. However, a Decker named Vin sets off a suicide bomb, killing and injuring many. Peck, who is seeking revenge on Rufus, plans to kill him with the help of his friend Damien.
After their adventure, they head to a nightclub for Deckers where they sing karaoke, slow dance, and spend time with friends. As the night progresses, Peck and his gang arrive with a gun, and a fight ensues. After escaping, Mateo and Rufus spend their final moments together in Mateo’s room, where they express their love for each other.
Tragically, Mateo dies in a kitchen accident, leaving Rufus overcome by grief and anger. He rides with Mateo’s body to the hospital and visits his own parents’ grave. Delilah writes Howie’s obituary, and Victor hurries to see her. Rufus watches the video of Mateo singing to him repeatedly, and he eventually crosses the street without looking.
Through the story, the characters explore themes of love, loss, regret, and the value of human connection. They learn to appreciate the present moment and to make the most of their time, even if it is limited. Despite the sadness and tragedy, the book ultimately offers a message of hope and the importance of cherishing every moment with loved ones.