This isn’t really a review. It’s just me rambling about this book that awakened my love for reading YA once again, so you have been warned. Also, spoilers!
I found out about this book from a girl who’s pretty great so I wanted to share in this thing she loves. Turns out, it was more than I bargained for because I finished it overnight and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Alright, now on to the rambles.
The book starts right in the middle of the action. Mateo thinks and rethinks his wording, already establishing that he is the kind of person who overthinks, something we see all throughout the novel. Three pages in, I understand what DEATH-CAST does despite not being given much background info, which I think is a result of good storytelling and atmosphere-setting.
The scene with Andrea from Death-Cast gives us a taste of what’s to happen later in the book: initial dread, then a glimmer of hope, finishing with completely crushing any hope we have ever had in our entire lives.
“Mateo, kindly confirm this is indeed you. I’m afraid I have many other calls to make tonight.”
Andrea from Death-Cast has this tired, annoyed way of talking as if she worked at the customer service of a fast food chain, fielding complaints and calming down customers all day long. In a way, I guess she kind of did, except instead of food, the product is death alerts. I wondered briefly where Death-Cast gets it money from.
It’s interesting how there’s a website for people on their last day, “Deckers” and how Mateo is kind of obsessed with it. Maybe it’s a common consequence of knowing that you will know when you die and you can’t do anything about it. I see a lot of myself in him, overthinking everything and being anxious all the time.
Andrea from Death-Cast getting his name wrong again reminds us how this is just another call for her while Mateo has to live with the fact that he’s going to die in 24 hours.
no one will be my audience as I play piano
Knowing that he gets to play a song for someone he loves and loves him back later on makes me happier though.
Mateo talking about himself in third person also reminds me of myself. In a morbid way, I’m thankful this is a fiction book and not real life. I get to live and continue on my days in the blissful ignorance of a world without Death-cast.
The stark contrast of Rufus’ situation upon receiving his alert brought me out of my solemn thinking. There’s a line I like a lot in this scene:
Maybe the call telling me I’m about to lose my life just saved his.
Also, I enjoyed reading Rufus’ thoughts in the way he expressed himself, full of curses and casually morbid statements.
And we Emeterios haven’t exactly been lucky with staying alive. But meeting our maker ahead of time? We’re your guys.
Rufus thinks about how someone could stomach doing the job of Victor from Death-cast and questions how it works. He doesn’t get an answer, but we see a little bit of how he thinks.
Getting mad at the messenger, he wants to make him feel guilty and lashes out at him. Victor from Death-cast responds pretty unprofessionally, revealing information about a mother who was going to lose her child and having to call the cops to make sure she wouldn’t kill her own child. It wasn’t professional at all, but it does shut Rufus up.
I wonder if Victor from Death-cast is breaking protocol by doing this. Does no one keep track of what these death operators are saying? Are they allowed to just do anything to make the “decker” cooperate? No answers.
Anyway Rufus is getting in his head about his family’s death and how he pretends to be tough when he really isn’t.
Fast forward a few chapters and we see Andrea from Death-cast’s side of the story and how she basically dehumanizes all the “deckers” she talks to. I’m not sure I agree with this thinking, but it’s a job and she’s trying to provide for her family, which I can get behind.
The two boys meet up and reading this part again makes me want to jump into the book and shout, “JUST MAKE OUT ALREADY WHILE YOU HAVE TIME” but even if I could, I don’t think that would’ve done anything.
Also, thank you to Adam Silvera for straight up telling us who’s not going to die every time there’s a new point of view so I can freely get attached without dreading their death. But also, the fact that this had to be said fucks with my brain.
Malcolm and Tagoe get arrested while Rufus and Mateo meet for the first time. Rufus is the reckless to Mateo’s cautios and they balance each other out well.
I like how Rufus rationalizes with Mateo’s overthinking instead of convincing him to stop overthinking. It works better than saying, “Stop thinking too much” which I’ve been on the receiving side of countless times.
Mateo and the bird he saves are the same. The bird leaves its nest then (presumably) dies. Mateo leaves his house before he dies.
This time though, Mateo wants to give this other dead bird a proper burial, just like what he would want to have
I like the idea of a bird that dies so tragically ahead of its time resting amid life here in the garden. I even imagine that this tree was once a person, some Decker who was cremated and had asked to have their ashes packed into a biodegradable urn with a tree seed to give it life.
Mateo wants to be surrounded by life when he dies, which makes me want him to change his mind at the end and be cremated into a biodegradable urn as well.
I’ll leave this here for now and if I feel like it, I might do a second part. The main purpose of this post was so that I could express my feelings about this book in a healthy manner, but it turns out I had way more to say than I expected and I’m not even halfway through rereading the book.
I don’t know if he will ever see this, but thank you to Adam Silvera for writing this book. Not only did it ask questions about dealing with mortality, but it also provided an avenue for queer boys of color to be in love in a normalizing way. I hope more books will follow suit.