On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.
Silvera’s latest novel imagines a contemporary world in which death can be predicted accurately to the day of death. Time and cause can’t be discerned, but Death-Cast can inform you in the wee hours of the morning if you are going to die that day. Now, just the concept brings so much to mind – what would such a world be like? What could you do in 24 hours? What WOULD you don in 24 hours? And the author builds a narrative of two boys within that framework. Two strangers, who decide to spend their last day together.
Mateo and Rufus are quite different in nature. Mateo is the gentle cinnamon roll (he digs graves for dead birds and helps out strangers), introverted and afraid to speak up. Rufus has violent impulses (we are literally introduced to him as he is beating up a guy), is fiercely loyal and has survivor’s guilt. Matoe’s last day was about becoming the person he really wanted to be, and Rufus’ last goodbyes are ruined and when the both of them come together because of an app, it starts a tentative but beautiful relationship.
Now their last day activities are mostly about making some good memories and hoping to die with lesser regrets, and constantly on the look out for their death. It is not funny, but when the book started I was imagining Death lurking in the background singing ‘one way or another I’m gonna get ya’ and at the start, Mateo is cautious like that. Slowly he starts to unwind and let the day take him where he did, and both of them seek their respective closures and goodbyes. Through a dual POV, we see how their companionship helps both of them, with Mateo gaining courage and Rufus gaining serenity through it. Through some other POV, we also see some ‘background’ characters and how their lives intersect with our two protagonists, and I liked that little detail. It reminded that the story is a little about other people too as it is about our two protagonists and how they navigate in the world. The world-building doesn’t go beyond the introduction of Death-Cast a few years prior and the businesses that sprang around it, however, and I felt maybe we were denied some answers.
The romance, is well, not insta-love kind but also I was a bit like – hold on there, it has been less than a day. But then you also think like how these two characters bared their souls to each other on their last day, and well, there is no later time to fall in love anyway. Though it was a beautiful development, it could have even worked on a platonic scale, because their friendship was as good as their romance. However, since this is an own voices book, I won’t give any further arguments against it. The story is beautiful and despite the end (look, the spoiler is in the TITLE) it was a engaging and thoughtful journey to it.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.