Months have passed since I graduated from college. And the longer I’ve been out of classes, the more I’ve begun to feel as if the dream I have is never going to come to fruition. I know I should never give up on my goals, but my self doubt only grows as time goes on. It must happen to everybody, I’m sure, but we never really see that, do we? Others only talk of their success, not their failures.
I dream of being published, of seeing my name on the cover of a book–the insides filled with the characters I created. It doesn’t help me personally that I don’t have any other friends who are aspiring authors. I have no one to compare my experiences. It feels as if I am on this journey alone, even though that isn’t the case.
Lately, I find I’m reminding myself more often that I can become published. If I don’t keep trying, then it definitely won’t happen. It’s easy to fall into a rut, but it’s even harder to get yourself out of one. And like that one famous quote says, “If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
If I don’t doubt myself, how can I ever improve? If I don’t question the choices I make, how will I ever learn to make better decisions? As long as I keep pushing myself to get better, I will. My story is worth hearing, because it’s mine, and no one can tell it like I can.
“Maybe it’s better to have gotten it right and been happy for one day instead of living a lifetime of wrongs.”
Adam Silvera is no stranger to me. I first heard him speak at a conference in 2015, and I was immediately charmed by his meaningful words and personality. Afterwards, I immediately bought his first novel More Happy than Not and proceeded to read it in one night–I absolutely devoured it. MHTN left me heartbroken, with a melancholy feeling nestled deep in the pit of my stomach. His first novel helped me understand how important it is to let ourselves feel pain. Sadness and grief have to be felt for humans to get any sort of joy out of life.
Silvera’s second book History is All You Left Me made me feel much the same way as MHTN. Griffin and Jackson, the main characters, had to work through their grief for their lost love before they could feel anything resembling happiness. Again, Silvera’s second novel crushed me in a hopeful sort of way. It left a very similar feeling in me as his first novel did.
So when I picked up They Both Die at the End, I was expecting a heartbreaking book that would inspire me to live my life to the fullest because, unlike the characters, we never know when death is going to come knocking at our door.
But unfortunately, TBDATE fell short for me. The characters didn’t feel real or fleshed out. I wanted more information on Death-Cast, and I think knowing the ending (it is in the title) prevented me from developing any sort of affection for Mateo and Rufus.
What I did enjoy was the scenes dedicated to other lives surrounding the two main characters. I loved Lidia, Mateo’s best friend, and would have enjoyed seeing more of her. The crossing of paths throughout the novel between Mateo and Rufus and other deckers–people who received calls from Death-Cast–was interesting. It served as a reminder that as humans we never truly know how close to death we get each day.
But the technology was confusing. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would pay “Make-A-Moment” for cheap imitations of exciting memories. The arena scenes were extremely baffling (I’d love for Silvera to explain them to me because there was some serious detail lacking). And, They Both Die at the End wasn’t emotionally charged for me, like his first two novels were. I wanted it to reach out and twist my heart, but it just never did.
“I turned to her. Her face looked small and rigid and miserable. We hugged. I held her close and too long. ‘I don’t want to let you go,’ I breathed in her ear. But I did. I let her go. And they boarded the ship.”
Fen and Nell are anthropologists studying tribes in New Guinea in 1933. After studying multiple tribes, the married couple can’t seem to find a place they like or isn’t overwhelmingly barbaric. Until they happen on an old friend, Bankson, who is desperate for company. The three develop an unlikely friendship and make huge developments in their work. While they are lost in the haze of discovery, Bankson and Nell develop a tense sort of relationship. All the while, Fen notices but never says anything. It is a strained sort of love triangle, which ultimately ends in heartbreak and mystery.
I enjoyed this novel and the interesting setting it presented. The humans our three characters study took on a huge role in this book, and I could tell King spent a lot of time researching New Guinea and the culture there in the 1930s. I also appreciated that the story was based off Margaret Mead and her own love triangle. Even though this is a work of fiction, I felt it deepened my understanding of anthropology and the history of New Guinea.
I would have liked for the relationships to develop deeper. I wanted more between Bankson and Nell. I wanted more conflict between Bankson and Fen. I wanted Nell to stand up for herself. I finished the novel, and found myself asking, “That’s it?” I would have liked to see more exploration in each separate relationship.
Lotto and Mathilde are like every young, married couple–living cheaply, struggling just to make ends meet. Just out of college, they decide to marry after two weeks of knowing each other. Even though all their friends and family believe it will never last, somehow, it does. Told through dual perspectives, we get Lotto’s side of the story first. We learn Lotto comes from money, but is disinherited after marrying Mathilde. We learn about his family and upbringing. And towards the end of his life, secrets began to unravel about Mathilde. In Mathilde’s perspective, she does all she can to support her husband, working hard and taking care of their small apartment, while Lotto figures out his life as an actor. As time and their relationship goes on, we start to see their relationship in a new light. What secrets could be lurking behind their marriage?
I liked the premise of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. There was the mystery behind Lotto and Mathilde’s relationship–how did two young 22-year-olds, who only knew each other for two weeks, make a relationship work as well as they do?–but ultimately, I found the plot lacking in excitement. F&F is compared to the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but I believe that’s a weak comparison. There is no spark in this novel, no moment of, “Holy sh*t!” where the readers realize something vital they’ve been missing the whole time. And even though a secret does reveal itself at the end, it comes a little too late in the story. I never found myself wondering about the credibility of the characters. I didn’t particularly like either Mathilde or Lotto. I was annoyed by Mathilde’s lying. I was annoyed by Lotto’s lazy attitude. I was annoyed throughout the entire novel–not angry, or shocked, or upset–just annoyed. With so many ways this story could have played out, I would have liked something with a little more mystery, a little more oomph to it.