Tournament of Books, Round Two: They Both Die at the End vs Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

ggtvaHenry “Monty” Montague is the ultimate spoiled, rich playboy. His father’s anger hasn’t been able to keep him from indulging every impulse: parties, gambling, alcohol, meaningless trysts with the nearest available woman or man. There’s only one impulse he won’t pursue: his feelings for his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Monty has begun his last hurrah, a tour of Europe with Percy before his father makes him face his adult responsibilities and take on the family estate. However, when Monty’s impulsive behavior lands him, Percy, and Monty’s sister Felicity in hot water with the wrong people, the freedom tour becomes a run for their lives.

Monty is an irrepressible, lovable idiot whose hilarious but maddening antics kept me alternately laughing, groaning, and SMDH. The book is engaging, funny, and thoroughly readable. Author Mackenzi Lee skillfully incorporates issues of privilege, race, gender, and ableism, giving real depth to a story that nevertheless maintains the lightness, fun, and accessibility of a comedic, romantic adventure.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

tbdateConfession time: If I hadn’t needed to review this book, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I’d recently read another book (Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin) based on the exact same concept: it’s a world just like ours, except that everyone knows ahead of time that today is the day they will die. How different could these books be? (Very, as it turns out.) What’s more, the book didn’t immediately pull me in. I slogged through the first third of the book, and it felt like nothing at all had happened.

Nevertheless, I persisted. They Both Die at the End won me over, eventually. I closed the book with that dreamy reluctance one gets at the end of a really good book. But it was a very (VERY) slow burn. Silvera spends a long time on the setup of the characters and their circumstances before the narrative really gets started.

Silvera’s book makes a great addition to the #OwnVoices canon, featuring a gay Puerto Rican main character (Mateo) and a bisexual Cuban main character (Rufus). Secondary characters are represented in less detail, but are diverse and unstereotyped.

Mateo and Rufus both start the day with a call from Death-Cast, the service that notifies the imminently-mortal of their upcoming demise. Mateo, who can perhaps best be described as reticent, isn’t sure how to make the best use of his last day. He wants to see his loved ones, but is afraid to go out. What danger lies in wait for him outside the safety of his apartment? But he’s spent his whole life avoiding the scary stuff, and he knows it’s his last chance to experience what the world has to offer him.

Rufus is in the middle of beating someone up when he gets the call. In fact, he briefly thinks the call is coming in for his victim. When the consequences of this fight catch up to him, he ends up on the run, unable to spend his last hours with the people most important to him.

It’s the Last Friend app, a social media app for Deckers (the soon-to-be dearly departed), that brings these two strangers together on their last day. They meet and set out across the city, to see their loved ones and seek meaningful experiences.

As the two get to know one another, trust begins to blossom, and each brings out something greater from the other. Rufus draws Mateo out of himself, helping him build the confidence to make something meaningful out of the time he has left. Mateo brings out a selfless, generous side of Rufus that has been overshadowed by his recent darker impulses. It’s this becoming that is the beautiful part of the book, and it’s special enough to cast its glow over the reader up to the last page and beyond.

They Both Die at the End left me thinking of a line by my favorite poet, e.e. cummings:

unbeingdead isn’t beingalive

Life, in other words, is for living. Seize the day. Make this day count, and all the other clichés. They’re clichés for a reason: they’re true.

And the winner is…


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

This was a very difficult decision. Despite the very (VERY) slow burn of Silvera’s book, I finished it feeling certain that I’d just read something amazing. And it was! I’ll definitely be recommending They Both Die at the End enthusiastically, to the right reader.

However, it was the very (VERY) slow burn that ultimately lost this round of the Tournament of Books. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is ultimately more accessible and more engaging for the average teen reader than They Both Die at the End.

Andrea Johnson is a Teen Services Librarian at the Mount Prospect Public Library. When she’s not at the library, she’s probably hanging out with her one husband, two kids, and two cats, reading science fiction, or binge-watching Supernatural.


Back to Round Two, Bracket Three

Onto Round Two, Bracket Five


2 thoughts on “Tournament of Books, Round Two: They Both Die at the End vs Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

  1. Pingback: Tournament of Books, Round Two: One of Us Is Lying vs Strange the Dreamer | So like YA know...

  2. Pingback: Tournament of Books, Round Two: Long Way Down vs The Epic Crush of Genie Lo | So like YA know...

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