They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Published by: HarperTeen on September 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
In a future where people receive a phone call on the day they will die to let them know it is their last day, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio happen to get the call on the same day. Total strangers to each other, they meet up on an app called Last Friend and decide to spend their End Day together. For Mateo, it’s an opportunity to step outside of the cautious life he’s lived to find some adventure and tie up loose ends. For Rufus, who has a number of his own challenges to work through, a day with Mateo provides a chance to be a bit more carefree on his last day while spending his time with someone who understands exactly what he’s going through. And both find that it truly is amazing how deeply a bond can form in less than 24 hours…
This is a moving and thought-provoking book. Of course, it raises the obvious questions about whether one would want to know they were going to die or simply let it come as it does. And there’s the question of how we choose to live our lives on a day-to-day basis–live every day as if it’s your last or save that for your actual last day? And what does living your life as though it’s your last day really mean? The chances we don’t take may sometimes be just as impactful on our lives as the ones we do. And even though the title tells you exactly where this book is headed, I found I was still completely gutted when I got there. These two characters and the world in which they live really comes to life on these pages, and I found myself lost in the book and hoping–even just for a moment–for an ending that I (and Rufus and Mateo) knew deep down wasn’t possible.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, Book 1
Published by: HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
Mare Barrow is resigned to a bleak fate. She’s a Red (meaning she bleeds red and has no magical abilities) and has no skills to offer, aside from being an adept pickpocket. She is able to provide for her family using that tactic, though she knows her mother isn’t exactly fond of who she gets the things she brings home. But it doesn’t matter, since she knows it will be less than a year before she is conscripted and will go to fight a war being waged by the Slivers (the ruling class, who, yes, actually bleed silver and possess magical abilities) with Reds as their (often unwilling soldiers). But after Mare chances upon an odd young man one evening who gets her a job at the palace, everything changes. It is here that she (and the Silvers) discover that she’s no ordinary Red. In fact, she’s so extraordinary that her mere existence could threaten the entire balance of their society. Mare quickly finds herself wrapped up in the world of the Silvers, still clinging to her Red heritage, and not really knowing which way to turn. But in a power-based society where people will step over each other to get to the top, there may not be any direction that is entirely safe.
Although there is the female-YA-protagonist-with-some-romantic-subplot syndrome going on here, I did enjoy this book. The world that’s been created here, the major players, and the sharp twists and turns this one takes made it difficult for me to put this book down. It’s easy to get lost in Mare’s world. The writing is excellent, and I find myself looking forward to the next book in the series. This would probably be a five-star recommendation from me if it wasn’t for the subplot mentioned above. While it didn’t overtake the story in the ways it often does in YA lately, it’s overdone to the point that its existence in a book gives me pause at this point. If you are like me and put off by that trope, I still suggest giving this a chance as I think there are more enough redeeming qualities to make up for it in this one.
Red Queen at the HarperTeen website