Imminent Death

It isn’t rare for your favorite book character to die, especially for avid readers such as myself. It hurts a lot every time, but authors seemingly enjoy killing off their best protagonists. I believe that under the false explanation of how the character had to die in order to “advance the plot”, the author just wants to mess with us readers. Perhaps it is unfair of me to make this statement, but the liters of tears I have shed over ink and paper support me. They Both Die at the End is no different, but at least the author, Adam Silvera, gives us a blatant warning in the title. The setting of this book is far-flung, spread all over the vast city of Manhattan, New York. Here, I will be focusing on three specific aspects that I feel are important to the plot. It is set in the future, at a time where the Death-Cast exists. The Death-Cast is basically used to tell you that you will die that day. Two more particular places that are important to the story include the Cannon Café and the Travel Arena.

The first significant aspect of the book’s setting is the existence of Death-Cast. “Death-Cast is calling with the warning of a lifetime—I’m going to die today.” (Silvera, 1). This piece of dialogue is spoken by Mateo Torrez, one of the two main protagonists of the story. He, along with Rufus Emeterio—who we will meet later—are both unlucky receivers of Death-Cast, who tells them that today is their last day in this world. “Death-Cast can only provide a date for when someone is going to die, but not the exact minute or how it’ll happen.” (7) Though Death-Cast is some pretty futuristic technology, it still has its limitations. The fact that they can only tell the date is rather inconvenient, as may prevent the receiver from living the day to the fullest. It is difficult to live with no regrets when you could literally drop dead at any minute. “Rufus, I feel for you, I do. But I’m not at fault for your death, and I unfortunately have many more of these calls to make tonight. Can you do me a solid and cooperate?” (20) It is easy to dislike Death-Cast workers. Normal citizens must think them as emotionless robots whose only job is to inform people of their untimely death. But I think it would actually be very difficult and emotionally draining on their end. They have the most depressing job in the world. Even after years of work, they still would never be completely numb to it. “The officers were pursuing a Decker who was signing up for Bangers, the challenge for online feeds that has had a heartbreaking amount of daily hits and downloads the past four months.” (292) The purpose of Bangers was for Deckers to kill themselves spectacularly. Deckers—being the people who already knew of their impending death—would record themselves dying doing something insane. If the audience was entertained, they could vote for them, and the Decker’s family would win a decent amount of money. However, if they weren’t interested, the Decker would simply waste their last living day. The original purpose of Death-Cast was to make people value their lives a lot more for the last day, and give them time to say goodbye to loved ones. Unfortunately, the opposite happened for some people, such as the Deckers on Bangers. They lost all regard for their lives, and instead chose to do daredevil stunts that robbed them of any chance to live a good last day. “Death-Cast called Howie Maldonado at 2:37 a.m. to tell him he’s going to die today. His 2.3 million Twitter followers are taking it the hardest.” (310) A lot more people are affected when celebrities receive the Death-Cast alert. In addition to their families, all of their fans would be devastated to hear that their idol would be awaiting death today.

An important place in the story is Cannon Café. “We reach Cannon Café. There’s a triangular sign above the door with an illustrated logo of a cannon blasting a cheeseburger toward the café’s name, with French fries exploding wayward like fireworks.” (131) The first important location in the story is Cannon Café, where Mateo and Rufus go to for their last breakfast. “Rufus shakes his head. ‘Nah, not kidding. I come here a lot and wanted to roll through one last time.’” (133) This café is particularly close to Rufus’s heart, because he came here many times throughout the past few months, and even chose to come on the last day of his life. “If there’s anything else I can get you boys please just shout for me. Even if I’m in the back or with another customer, I’m yours.” (136) Perhaps the reason why this particular café is so close to Rufus’s heart is because of the people there. The waitress who spoke this kind line was called Rae, and she cared a lot about Rufus, a regular. In the popular drama TV show Riverdale, the characters congregate at a particular diner too. It’s called Pop’s Chock’Lit Shoppe, and the characters go there regularly to discuss the mysteries happening in their small town. This is present in most forms of media, with meet-up places ranging from the Starbucks down the block to a tiny restaurant in the middle of the woods.

Another crucial area is the Travel Arena. “The main entrance is a little crowded as Deckers and visitors look up at the gigantic screen listing all the regions you can visit, and the different kinds of tours available: Around the World in 80 Minutes, Miles of Wilds, Journey to the Center of the United States, and more.” (281-282) The Travel Arena is made for Deckers to be able to enjoy experiences around the world without actually actually traveling. There is also no risk of dying during the exhibitions. It is free for Deckers and sick people, but tourists must pay $100 dollars as an entrance fee. “I hope our trip today manages to put a smile on your face and leaves a wonderful memory for any guests joining you.” (282-283) Underneath all the great effects and lifelike visuals, the tour “around the world” creates only artificial memories. Although, it is very difficult to travel around the world in one day, so the creators of these trips are really trying their best. It leaves Deckers with a—albeit false—feeling of not regretting experiencing more in life. Around the World in 80 Minutes is most likely based on the book Around the World in 80 Days, a classic adventure novel by Jules Verne. Published in 1873 and originally written in French, it has been translated into over seventy languages today. It is also one of Verne’s most acclaimed works. It tells the story of Phileas Fogg, who attempts to circumnavigate the world in 80 days because of a bet his friends made of £20,000. It is not unlike how the Around the World in 80 Minutes tries to take you on a global journey in a ridiculously short time.

They Both Die at the End made me cry a lot when reading it. It’s a good book, but what makes it more powerful is how the author literally tells the reader that the two protagonists will die at the end. And yet, when they die, we are still devastated even though we knew how it would end all along. Setting is crucial when writing a good book. In this particular story, the story is set in a futuristic time where Death-Cast exists, and particular places include the Cannon Café as well as the Travel Arena. It is a very great read, and I definitely recommended it. The tears are beyond worth it for the incredible story They Both Die at the End. It teaches people to live each and every day to the fullest.

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