Adam Silvera is well-known in the book world for heartbreaking, gorgeous books about queer protagonists – and his newest book, They Both Die At The End, is no exception. I was lucky enough to get to read an early copy of They Both Die At The End and interview Adam Silvera about his books, writing, diversity, and more.
They Both Die At The End follows two strangers in New York City, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio, on their last day in this world. They’re not going to another universe – instead, they’ve both received a call that let them know that today is their End Day, which means they will die today. They meet through an app known as Last Friend, created for the purpose of accomplishing the impossible task of living a lifetime in the one day they have left.
Can you describe They Both Die At The End in a few sentences?
In a world where you get a phone call on the day you’re going to die, two strangers download the Last Friend app on their End Day and attempt to live a lifetime in a single day.
They Both Die At The End is told from the points of view of Rufus and Mateo, the two main characters, but many other smaller characters also have their own chapters. What gave you the idea to use such a unique style, and what was it like to actually write like that?
Mateo and Rufus are at the heart of this story, but the story was also becoming much bigger than them. Those other perspectives are very important in understanding how we get from Point A to Point Z. You can’t skip their scenes without understanding character motivations. To be a little hyperbolic, it would be like reading book one in a trilogy and skipping the second and going straight to the finale. Writing those scenes really cleared things up for me and expanded the world.
Your stories feature marginalized characters – different sexualities, mental illnesses, and races are all prevalent in your books and characters. Why does diversity in YA matter to you?
This question is obviously important, but it always strikes me to be recognized for writing the world we live in as a bonus to my books. How come we don’t ask authors who AREN’T writing diversely why including diversity amongst characters isn’t a thing in their books?
To answer the question, I’ve been privileged enough to receive enough reader emails that I know how important it’s been for them to recognize a part of themselves in my books. Whether it’s sexuality or struggles with suicide or coming to grips with OCD or something else, we’re all able to connect. I want to continue inviting readers to find themselves in my books. It’ll be impossible to make everyone feel seen in every book I write, or any book any author writes, but hopefully we can strike on the emotional resonances that will reach larger audiences and have a reader come away and say “This author gets me.”
Your characters are something that really stand out in your books. How do you build complex, realistic characters? Do you put bits of yourself, or people you know, into your characters, or are they completely unique?
I put a lot of myself in all my main characters. I came to writing fiction as a combination of imagination and therapy. I’ve sorted through so many issues in my real life on the page, and then confronted these realizations in real life and saved friendships. But there’s only so much of me I can write about without feeling like I’m getting repetitive, so for every character in my book 5, I’ve created a list of ten things about them. Big things, small things. Some things that may not even get used. But I know more about them and they’re less likely to be one-dimensional as a result.
What books would you recommend to readers who love They Both Die At The End?
Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, Lance Rubin’s Denton Little’s Deathdate.
What else would you like readers to know about They Both Die At The End?
I know I have a reputation for writing heartbreaking books and the title may not sound promising if you’re looking for a happy read and yes, it is a heartbreaker, but ultimately, it’s a book about life and I hope you give Mateo and Rufus a chance and witness their final day. It may inspire you to live your life in different ways.