The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera (560 pages)
How Would You Spend Your Final Day?
Death-Cast is new, and no one is quite sure if it’s real or some kind of elaborate prank. The app promises to give you a 24-hour warning before your death–a concept both intriguing and terrifying. And even though many people are skeptical, millions have already signed up. Orion Pagan, who suffers from a life-threatening heart condition, signed up, so he would get a warning of the inevitable, probably sooner-rather-than-later event of his death. Valentino Prince, with a golden future set before him, registered after his twin sister nearly died in a shocking car accident. The two cross paths in New York City, and their connection is instant.
When the first round of Death-Cast notifications go out, one of the boys receives a call, but the other does not. Because this is the first round of notifications, they’re not sure what to think. Their connection was so instant and so strong, so they decide to spend the day together, knowing full well that this decision will only make their parting more devastating. While the story is written from the two boys’ perspectives, we also get an idea of the absolute chaos and paranoia created by Death-Cast around the world. As people receive their notifications, they experience a range of emotions, from denial to depression to hysteria. Orion and Valentino are caught in this maelstrom, but their bond will lead them through it, regardless of where it might end.
A Pitiable Pair in The First to Die at the End
Readers are very quickly dropped into a busy world that has a full and impactful history. Ireland works to make this period setting accessible to readers, and that work pays off. Laura’s world, while different in many ways, has enough similarities to our modern world to make the stakes and tensions familiar. The point of view structure is pretty unique; Laura’s story is written in first-person, while Skylark’s story is in third-person. I haven’t really seen this before, but the structure not only gave us a good purview into Laura’s perspective, but also helped keep Skylark a bit more mysterious in an unforced way. Even with the mysticism, the impacts of oppression and capitalism on Laura’s society will be very familiar to modern readers
The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars
One of my major questions coming out of the first novel was about how Death-Cast got started and what the public response was to the app. This novel provided some of those answers, though I’d still like to know more about the logistics of how Death-Cast works. (That’s not really the focus of either story, though.) Silvera writes in an earnest, poignant way across all of his works, and this book is no exception. The sincerity helps counteract some of the feelings of repetition across the two stories. While the focus is mainly on the impact of the notifications, we also see how the characters’ lives are impacted by grief, religion-based faith, and abuse, adding to the complexity of their lives. I recommend this book to anyone looking to spend some time with their feelings and who might need a reminder to seize the day.
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table