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Heartbreaking YA Novel ‘They Both Die at the End’ To Become Heartbreaking Netflix Series

Two young men walk along a cityscape in the book cover for 'They Both Die in the End'

Adam Silvera’s bestselling YA novel They Both Die at the End is finally getting an adaptation and we’re ecstatic! First published in 2017, the novel is notably the very first book in history with queer Latin characters to climb to the number spot on the New York Times’ Best Seller list. The novel also found something of a resurgence following the pandemic after it made rounds in several circles on #BookTok, leading it to climb bestsellers lists once more. With all this in mind, here is everything we know so far about the upcoming TV series adaptation.

What is They Both Die at the End about?

The title of both the book and its adaptation already gives readers and audiences a heads up in terms of how heartbreaking Silvera’s story is. The plot follows protagonists Mateo and Rufus, who are informed via a call from Death-Cast that they are both going to die, so they decide to spend their final hours on Earth together. The two meet through an app called Last Friend, where people destined to die on a particular day can meet and quite literally become each other’s last friend.

The book’s official synopsis reads as follows:

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—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Not much is known about how the adaptation is going to tackle this plot, but we can probably expect it to stay faithful to the source material, considering that Silvera himself is on the production team. 

In a 2017 interview, Silvera had the opportunity to elaborate on what inspired him to write about the book’s unique yet heartbreaking premise. The writer shared that it has to do with the anxiety that comes with not knowing when you’re going to die, and also wondering what your last day on earth will be like. 

“We don’t have Death-Cast as an actual resource, so we should truly treat each day like it counts,” Silvera said when asked what he wanted readers to take away from his work. In the same interview, he advocated for the further highlighting of LGBTQ+ stories and voices:

“We need more and more and more and more and more and more queer stories on these shelves. Currently, in some bookstores, they shelve the queer narratives they have on one or two shelves, and I dream of having so many books out there that we can fill entire bookcases,” Silvera said. “One person’s experience won’t reflect the masses, so we need as many voices out there as possible so more teens can see themselves and meet others unlike themselves.”

Silvera even shared that he identifies with both of his novel’s protagonists: “I was definitely more of a sheltered Mateo who wanted to be more like outgoing Rufus. I had a lot of Rufus’ anger though. But where both boys land by the end, that’s more representative of who I am today.”

Who is making the TV series?

According to an exclusive report from Deadline, Netflix won a tight bidding war among at least five giant streamers and networks to get hold of the rights to Silvera’s novel. Helming the project is Bridgerton creator Chris Van Dusen, whose other credits include Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. Through Van Dusen’s vision, Bridgerton has impressively been recognized as the only Netflix series to date to land both the first and second spots on the platform’s Most Popular list with its first two seasons.

Joining Van Dusen is musician and singer Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, better known to fans by his stage name, Bad Bunny. Ocasio’s acting credits include American Sole, Bullet Train, and Narcos: Mexico. He is also set to make his superhero debut with El Muerto, a film set in the Spider-Man universe. 

What else has Adam Silvera written?

Silvera has recently expanded the They Both Die at the End universe with the release of its prequel, First To Die at the End, which came out in October 2022. The prequel’s plot primarily zones in on the Death-Cast program and the night before it went live. Its official synopsis reads as follows:

It’s the night before Death-Cast goes live, and there’s one question on everyone’s mind: Can Death-Cast actually predict when someone will die, or is it just an elaborate hoax? Orion Pagan has waited years for someone to tell him that he’s going to die. He has a serious heart condition, and he signed up for Death-Cast so he could know what’s coming.

Valentino Prince is restarting his life in New York. He has a long and promising future ahead and he only registered for Death-Cast after his twin sister nearly died in a car accident. Orion and Valentino cross paths in Times Square and immediately feel a deep connection. But when the first round of End Day calls goes out, their lives are changed forever—one of them receives a call, and the other doesn’t. Though neither boy is certain how the day will end, they know they want to spend it together … even if that means their goodbye will be heartbreaking.

Some of Silvera’s other books include What If It’s Us, History Is All You Left Me, and the fast-paced fantasy-adventure Infinity Son. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, was published in 2015 and topped the New York Times’ Best Seller list. It was also shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. 

We have yet to receive word if They Both Die at the End is going to be a limited series that’ll focus on the first book alone or if it’ll cover other stories and characters set in Silvera’s universe—here’s to hoping that they cover this new prequel book, as well!

(featured image: Quill Tree Books)

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Danielle is a twenty-something writer and postgrad student based in the Philippines. She loves books, movies, her cat, and traveling. In her spare time, she enjoys shooting 35mm film and going to concerts.