I read Turtles All the Way Down first, and about a quarter way through They Both Die at the End I was ready to give Turtles the victory. It took me awhile to get into They Both Die at the End; Mateo annoyed me, his fight with himself to actually leave his apartment dragged, and Rufus’s connection to the Plutos (the friends/family he’s made in his foster home) felt flat. But sometimes sticking with a book pays off.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
In Turtles All the Way Down by John Green we are introduced to Aza, who gets lost/trapped by the spiral of her own thoughts (which quite frequently have to do with how likely it is that she might have contracted clostridium difficile). There’s a missing billionaire, and her best-friend Daisy convinces Aza that they need to go talk to his son, Davis, because Aza has a vague childhood connection to him. Aza and Daisy do meet the billionaire’s son (and learn that said billionaire is leaving his entire fortune to an obscure lizard), but this book is not a mystery and any detective work is half-hearted at best. The book is more about what is going on in Aza’s head than what is going on in the world around her. She’s struggling with OCD and invasive (I think the correct medical term was intrusive, but Aza calls them invasive) thoughts that repeatedly remind her of all the microbes she already has and what could be working its way inside her (and possibly giving her C.diff) – and thoughts like that make it really hard to enjoy kissing someone. Aza knows these thoughts are not rational, and she tries through therapy and medication (which she takes almost every day) to keep them at bay, but it doesn’t always feel like she is the one in control, and if’ she’s not in control of her thoughts, what makes her Aza. Green does an excellent job of immersing the reader in Aza’s though spirals, making you feel that yes, Aza needs to go check that band aid one more time, even though you know (as does she) that it will be fine if she doesn’t.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera is at least devoid of spoilers, the outcome is in the title. When done well though, knowing what will happen doesn’t stop the reader from shedding a few tears (if they’re the type that does that sort of thing) when it comes to pass. Both Mateo and Rufus receive calls from Death Cast in the early morning hours, letting them know by the end of the day they will be dead. Mateo gets his call while sitting safely in his room (to be fair it is the middle of the night) and Rufus receives his while beating up the guy dating his ex-girlfriend. These two begin their last day as strangers and through the Last Friend App their lives come together. Their friendship starts off a bit stiff and awkward (Rufus basically has to force Mateo to leave his apartment and when Mateo finds out Rufus is wanted by the police he’s ready to bolt), which, considering they just met, is more than reasonable. Once Rufus and Mateo fell into a rhythm together though, the book came alive. I’m not usually a fan of the insta-relationship (although I did thoroughly enjoy The Sun is Also a Star so maybe with the right writer and set of circumstances it does work well), but with their deaths on the horizon, throwing themselves into something more fully and with fewer inhibitions works. By the end, their deaths definitely packed an emotional punch (there were some tears). Despite the semi-fantastical premise the book is more about the details of life and human connection.
And the winner is…
They Both Die at the End
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Part of me still wants the winner to be Aza and her thought spirals, but when Silvera’s book ended I had a hard time pulling myself back to the real world. I kept rehashing and going back to Mateo’s and Rufus’s last moments, wondering about the power behind Death Cast and the gift/curse that being aware of your last day can be.
Lisa Fisherkeller Barefield is the Teen Services Supervisor at Wheaton Public Library. She’s always looking for new places to travel (real world and fictional/fantastical), regularly finds herself dancing to the music in her head, and considers herself to be a French fry connoisseur (to date Belgian fries dipped in mayonnaise are her favorite).