How would you live if you knew you were going to die?
A thought provoking and timely ethical dilemma spun with human storytelling and even more beautiful characters.
Name: The First To Die At The End
Author: Adam Silvera
In a prequel to They Both Die At The End, The First To Die At The End is existential science fiction at its finest. If an app could supposedly predict your death, would you believe it? After receiving the first ever call from Death Cast predicting his untimely death, Valentino meets Orion on his ‘End Day’. Spanning a single day, the boys travel NYC with old and found family, struggling to decide if Death Cast is real. It’s a thought provoking and timely ethical dilemma spun with human storytelling and even more beautiful characters.
Their world is like an apocalypse with everyday objects. Our characters are scared of everything – this train could kill you. Your car could kill you. The oven, the TV, the fridge. Orion is terrified that Death Cast has forgotten to call him and he will die today – but that’s how we all live.
While this prequel could be read before They Both Die At The End, it’s clear that it is made with original fans at heart. I absolutely loved that there are many mentions of characters from the original book, as well as new ways their lives were touched by Valentino and Orion. However, this book stands alone in its own right – Silvera has taken a new angle by setting it on the first day of Death Cast and it isn’t simply a recasting of the original by any means.
Find my review of They Both Die At The End here, a cross-stitch that I created here and discover why it’s my comfort read here.
One common critique of the original book is a lack of world building. Therefore, it’s fascinating to see Death Cast from its creation to flesh out this alternate reality. However, Silvera cleverly evades answering a lot of our questions because the book is set on the first day of Death Cast. All these fascinating dilemmas are posed – such as, should doctors treat confirmed Deckers? – without providing any answers. The characters don’t know so neither do we.
While Silvera’s colloquial New York style can take some getting used to, it’s what makes his books his. Like a lot of Silvera’s books, The First To Die At The End is heavily rooted in NYC but this one – set in 2010 – focuses on 9/11. While the time setting gives rise to jokes about skinny jeans, selfies and a nascent social media, we also see the effects of 9/11 on a young man not 10 years after his parents died in the disaster. The boys visit a Ground Zero under construction and ‘you’re the first guy I’ve brought to meet my parents’ destroyed me.
So why didn’t I award five stars? Well, while the plot and characters were beautifully crafted, a lot of the figurative language used felt clumsy. It made the story tiresome. There were too many metaphors and puns about life and death and hearts. Low hanging fruit. It felt too easy: ‘I will guard my life with my life’; ‘all hope flatlined’; ‘it’s heartbreaking’; ‘like my heart is being choked out’; ‘in this life’. I could go on and on. I appreciate the motifs but for me, it became almost a bingo of when those words would be used.
However ultimately, this book is a vibrant celebration of life. From such short chapters, so much energy and character oozes. The polyphonic and human cast made the book for me and I’d whole heartedly (hah) recommend it to anyone who feels unfulfilled in their life. How would you live if you knew you were going to die?
Have you read The First To Die At The End? Or any of Adam Silvera’s other books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!