They Both Die at the End

Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio both receive a call from Death-Cast at around midnight on September 5, 2017. Death-Cast tells them that they will die sometime in the next 24 hours.

Until that day, the boys had nothing in common. Mateo has spent his life inside, fearing the day he gets the call and doing everything he can to avoid bringing it about early. Rufus, on the other hand, has seen death up close and personal. After losing his family in a car accident, he has vowed to live every day to the fullest.

Their paths cross when they each download the app Last Friend, designed to give people a chance to connect with someone on their End Day. The novel follows the boys as they try to make each final moment count, and learn to balance healthy fear with the pursuit of feeling truly alive one last time.

The spoilers are in the title, but knowing the ending makes the reading journey more valuable. The audience is given happy moments, not a happy ending. Readers must grapple with their own mortality and ask whether they have been living more like Mateo or Rufus. For these reasons, the book is recommended for older teenaged readers. While the message is valuable, it is at times difficult to confront, so readers should approach the book with caution. They Both Die in the End addresses death, illness, difficult upbringings, terrorism, spirituality, suicide, and first loves.

The story alternates between the first-person perspectives of Rufus and Mateo as well as a third-person view of characters whose stories intertwine with theirs. As their lives intertwine, characters who may seem unrelated at first, find themselves deeply affected by the boys. This unifies the plot and allows Silvera to explore a diverse collection of characters and their relationships with death without becoming too unfocused. Despite the sadness of a short life, the collective experiences of Rufus and, more particularly, Mateo, leave readers with the hope that though the boys may not have lived long lives, they each lived fully on their final days.

Sexual Content

  • Mateo wants to go do something outside, so he does not spend the day “masturbating because sex with an actual person scares [him].”
  • Mateo’s best friend Lidia is an 18-year-old single mother.
  • A man approaches a woman at a club and says, “Maybe you’ll live to see another day with some Vitamin Me in your system.” This causes her friend to “[swing] her purse at him until he backs up.”
  • Rufus’s foster home has a “bulletin board with information about sex, getting tested for HIV, abortion and adoption clinics, and other sheets of that nature”.
  • Aimee, Rufus’s ex-girlfriend wishes Rufus would “watch porn” rather than reality TV.
  • Rufus remembers when he and Aimee were dating, and they would “rest underneath the blanket together.”
  • Mateo distinguishes between the Last Friend app and Necro “which is intended for anyone who wants a one-night stand with a Decker—the ultimate no-strings-attached app.” Mateo says, “I’ve always been so disturbed by Necro, and not just because sex makes me nervous.” Mateo doesn’t like the app’s eight-dollar fee because he feels “as if a human is worth more than eight bucks.”
  • Rufus describes his outfit, including basketball shorts over gym tights to prevent his “package” from “poking out there like Spider-Man’s.”
  • A potential Last Friend reaches out to Mateo, but she reveals she does not really want a friend. She says, “do you have an open house then? I’m supposed to lose my virginity to my bf but i want to practice first and maybe u can help me out.” Mateo blocks her after he sees the message.
  • Another potential Last Friend tricks Mateo by implying he can save Mateo from death. When Mateo asks him how, he says he should come over to his apartment because he “[has] the cure to death in [his] pants.” Mateo blocks him as well. Rufus later receives the same message when he downloads the app.
  • After hearing Rufus is dying Aimee cries, holds Rufus’s hand and hugs him. He remembers how “she would relax on [his] chest whenever she was about to watch one of her historical documentaries.” After noticing that “she’s mad close,” Rufus “[leans] in” to kiss Aimee but is interrupted.
  • Mateo changes his profile to only allow sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds to message him, so “older men and women can no longer hit on [him].”
  • Mateo can hear the sounds coming from different apartments, including “one couple moaning” and laughter which he says could possibly be from “being tickled by a lover.”
  • Mateo considers the life of birds who “mate and nurture baby birds until they can fly.”
  • On the party train, Rufus notices “a girl . . . hops onto the bench seat to dance. Some dude is hitting on her, but her eyes are closed, and she’s just straight-up lost in her moment.”
  • A girl described as gorgeous, hazel-eyed, and black approaches Rufus on the party train and he feels “her breasts against [his] chest and her [lips] against [his] ear.” She asks if he wants to go home with her, and Rufus refers to her as his type, but he ultimately says no, due to him not having “much [he] can offer her, besides what she’s obviously suggesting.” He acknowledges that “sex with a college girl has gotta be on mad people’s bucket lists—young people, married-dude people, boys, girls . . .” However, he remembers Aimee and thinks, “I’m not trying to cheat that with something fake like this.”
  • The girl ultimately leaves with another guy, and Rufus suspects “they’ll just have sex tonight and he’ll call her ‘Kelly’ in the morning.”
  • Mateo tells Rufus about his parents’ proposal story. He explains, “My mother turned him down twice. He said she liked playing hard to get. Then she found out she was pregnant with me and he got down on one knee in the bathroom and she smiled and said yes.”
  • Mateo discusses his parent’s relationship in terms of songs, saying, “Another of Dad’s favorites is ‘Come What May,’ which my mother sang to him and womb-me during a shower they took together before her water broke.”
  • Delilah places her phone on the pillow “on the side of the bed that was Victor’s whenever he stayed over.”
  • Rufus tells Mateo, “Your Last Friend is gonna make sure you go out with a bang. Not a bad bang, or a you-know-what bang, but a good bang,”
  • Rufus jokes that if observing makes one able to do something, then “[he has] watched enough porn to make [him] a sex god.”
  • As Mateo looks at Rufus’s Instagram, Rufus says he feels “exposed.” Rufus likens it to “someone watching [him] wrap a towel around [his] boys” after a shower.
  • When Rufus was thirteen, he describes how “flipping through magazines, [he’d] scout for pictures of girls in skirts and dudes in shorts and would tilt the page to see what was underneath.”
  • At Make-A-Moment, Mateo notices that “a couple are kissing in a hot air balloon.”
  • Mateo meets a boy who “was pretty sure love didn’t mean that your father slept on the couch and that your mother didn’t care when her husband was caught cheating on her with younger girls in Atlantic City.”
  • After Mateo’s nightmare, he notices how Rufus “shifts closer…[Rufus’s] knee knocking against [his].”
  • Rufus explains that Althea Park is “where [he] kissed this girl, Cathy, for the first time.”
  • Mateo tells Rufus he’s never dated anyone, but he has had crushes. Then Mateo thinks to himself, “I sense there’s something more he wants to say; maybe he wants to crack a joke about how I should sign up for Necro so I don’t die a virgin, as if sex and love are the same thing.”
  • Mateo describes riding the bike with Rufus. He says, “I would lean against Rufus, shifting my weight against him . . .  keep holding him.” He determines that he is “going to do something small and brave.”
  • Rufus will not express his interest in Mateo, because, “He’s gotta make a move himself.”
  • When talking about the ending to his dream, Rufus says, “Nah, I think I started dreaming about sex or something and woke up from that.”
  • Mateo recognizes that Rufus is “probably not a virgin.”
  • While sitting next to each other on the train, Rufus “shifts, his body leaning against [Mateo’s].”
  • A comment could imply a history of sexual assault. A girl tells someone “all the heartbreaking [secrets] she always kept to herself because speaking up was too hard.”
  • Rufus, Mateo, and Lidia go swimming unexpectedly and strip down to their underwear. Rufus says, “[Mateo] avoids looking my way . . . unlike Lidia . . . who’s looking me up and down.”
  • When they prepare to jump into the pool, Rufus says, “I grab Mateo’s hand and lock my fingers in his. He turns to me with flushed cheeks . . . ” After they jump, they are still holding hands, and Rufus hugs Mateo in the water.
  • Later, Rufus thinks, “We don’t bring up the hand-holding or anything like that, but hopefully he gets where I’m coming from now in case he had any doubts.” Rufus says, “[The Plutos are] smiling at me like they wanna tag-team bang me.”
  • A girl “eyes [Rufus] up and down” and Mateo’s “face heats up.” He says, “But then Rufus catches up to me and pats my shoulder and the burn is different, like when he grabbed my hand back at the Travel Arena.”
  • Mateo and Rufus sing karaoke. Then Mateo drags Rufus “offstage, and once we’re behind the curtain, I look him in the eyes and he smiles like he knows what’s about to go down . . . I kiss the guy who brought me to life on the day we’re going to die.” Afterward, Rufus kisses Mateo.
  • Mateo and Rufus slow dance. “We place our hands on each other’s shoulders and waist; [Mateo’s] fingers dig into him a little, the first time I’m getting to touch someone else like this.” Mateo admits that “maintaining eye contact with Rufus is really hard” because it is “the most intense intimacy [he has] ever experienced.” They speak into each other’s ears and continue to dance before they kiss and part.
  • Rufus thinks, “Part of me can’t help but wonder if Mateo is bringing me home so we can have sex, but it’s probably safe to assume sex isn’t on the brain for him.”
  • Mateo sings “Your Song” for Rufus, and in the middle of the song, Rufus kisses his forehead.
  • Mateo and Rufus sit on the bed, “linking [their] arms and legs together.”
  • Rufus tells Mateo, “I would’ve loved you if we had more time . . .Maybe I already do . . .” Mateo then says, “I want to say it as many times as I want—I love you, I love you, I love you.” To which Rufus responds, “You know damn well I love you too . . . I don’t talk out of my dick, you know that’s not me.” He says he wants to kiss him again, but he doesn’t.
  • Rufus narrates as Mateo “climbs into [his] lap, bringing [them] closer.” They stay close together and kiss one more time before sleeping side by side.

Violence

  • After he finds out that he is going to die, Mateo wants to “curse into a pillow” because his dad is in a coma or “punch a wall because [his] mom marked [him] for an early death when she died giving birth to [him].”
  • Mateo tells the story of a President who “tried to hide from Death in an underground bunker four years ago and was assassinated by one of his own secret service agents.”
  • Frequently, Mateo and Rufus imagine the scenarios in which they could die. These are often worst-case scenarios, and some are gruesome. For instance, Mateo says, “I could choke on a cough drop; I could leave my apartment to do something with myself and fall down the stairs and snap my neck before I even make it outside; someone could break in and murder me.”
  • A fight between Rufus and Peck, Aimee’s new boyfriend, occurs over nine pages. Rufus repeatedly punches Peck, while pinning him down. Rufus fears he may kill Peck. He checks to make sure Peck doesn’t have a pocketknife, concerned that Peck may be the one to kill him. Rufus picks “Peck up by the back of his collar and then [slams] him against the brick wall . . . Blood slides from an open wound in [Peck’s] forehead.” Finally, a friend of Rufus’s looks like he is “about to kick [Peck] like his head’s a soccer ball.” Peck is not killed but walks away severely injured.
  • Rufus explains that his family’s car “flipped into the Hudson River” killing his sister and parents. Rufus later goes into more detail about the crash. He explains, “I’d sat shotgun because I thought it bettered our chances of surviving a head-on car crash if both my parents weren’t in front.” He says that it did not change anything “before going on about the screeching tires, the way we busted through the road’s safety rail and tumbled into the river. . .” Rufus says, though he forgets their voices, “I could recognize their screams anywhere.”
  • Victor, a Death-Cast employee, explains that his day included telling a mother her four-year-old daughter will die today and sending police to her home just in case the mother is responsible for the impending death.
  • While contemplating death, Rufus thinks “I’m praying that I don’t drown like my parents and sis.” He then says he’s “counting on not getting shot.”
  • Despite telling his friends he “wasn’t going to kill” Peck, Rufus internally admits, “I could’ve killed him.”
  • Rufus says that his survivor’s guilt after his family’s death was so strong that “there’s no way in hell [he] would’ve been chill with [himself] for beating someone to death.”
  • Wondering what happened to a blogger who died, Mateo considers looking into “muggings or murders in Central Park” to see if one victim was the blogger.
  • Rufus tells the readers that his friend “Malcom’s parents died in a house fire caused by some unidentified arsonist, and whoever it was, Malcolm hopes he’s burning in hell.” He later says Malcolm learned from “the flames that burned his house, parents, and favorite things” how to value people over things.
  • Rufus’s friend’s father “committed suicide.”
  • After telling Aimee that he promises not to die before he gets to see her again, she responds with the question, “How many Deckers make those promises and then pianos fall on their heads?”
  • Rufus warns Aimee that Peck “better not call the cops” so that Rufus doesn’t “find [himself] on the wrong end of some officer’s club.”
  • A picture in Rufus’s room is described as showing his friend with a bloody nose after an attempt to create a handshake went awry “because of a stupid head-butt.”
  • A man using the Last Friend app “unwittingly befriended the infamous Last Friend serial killer.”
  • The characters occasionally joke that another character could kill them from frustration. For instance, Rufus says, “It’s possible I’m gonna die at the hands of my foster father; if you’re not his alarm clock, you shouldn’t wake him up.”
  • Rufus describes how Aimee pushes him, and that, “She doesn’t play when it comes to violence because her parents got real extra when they tag-team-robbed a convenience store, assaulting the owner and his twenty-year-old son.” He clarifies that she will not be arrested like they were for “shoving [him] around.”
  • Peck is described after the fight as having “one eye shut, a cut on his lip, spots of dried blood on his swollen forehead.”
  • Playing a video game, Mateo watches his avatar “[step] on a land mine” which causes the virtual “arm to fly through a hut’s window, his head rockets into the sky, and his legs burst completely.” However, a moment later, the character returns “good as new,” which makes Mateo contemplate the finality of his own death.
  • Mateo has a panic attack and lashes out. He throws “these books across the room and even kick some of my favorites off their shelves . . . I rush over to my speakers and almost hurl them against the wall, stopping myself.” He stops because the electricity could kill him.
  • Rufus, while biking to Mateo’s home, says, “He better not be a serial killer or so help me . . . ”
  • Rufus’s friends, Malcolm and Tagoe, are arrested by the officers who are trying to track down Rufus, because “Malcolm argued with the police officer and resisted arrest” and “Tagoe jumped into the argument too with more aggression than Malcolm himself was using.”
  • The narrator explains that “Malcolm has never even been in a fight before, even though many paint him to be a violent young man because he’s six feet tall, black, and close to two hundred pounds.”
  • Mateo is concerned that Rufus is going to rob him when he first meets him. He checks the hallway “to see if he has some friends hiding against the walls, ready to jump me for the little I have.”
  • Mateo imagines his death again and cringes from the phantom feeling of “falling face-first onto spiked fences or having your teeth punched out of your mouth.” He runs through a list of scenarios with Rufus and their plan, should one of them occur. These scenarios include “some truck might run us down,” “someone pulls out a gun,” and “a train kills us.”
  • Mateo and Rufus come across a dead bird that “has been flattened; its severed head is a couple inches away.” Mateo thinks “it was run down by a car and then split by a bike.” When Mateo goes to bury the bird, he fears its head will “roll away.”
  • Mateo remembers seeing a baby bird fall out of its nest and how “its leg broke on impact.”
  • Rufus is grateful their train arrived because “we can safely rule out falling onto the exposed tracks, getting stuck while rats run by us, and straight chopped up and flattened by the train.”
  • Rufus says that getting Mateo “out of the apartment was one thing, but I’m probably gonna have to knock the dude out and drag him out of the hospital,”
  • Mateo tells Rufus about a childhood incident in which a bully took his lunch money, saying, “He punched me in the face and took it all.”
  • When Mateo goes to an ATM, he is “praying someone doesn’t come out of nowhere and hold [them] up at gunpoint for the money—we know how that would end.”
  • When exploring a ditch, Rufus tells Mateo, “If you find any toes in there, we’re jetting.” Mateo says there are no body parts, but in the past, he has found a “guy with a bloody nose and no sneakers. . . [he was] beat up and robbed.”
  • “Four six-foot-tall kids jumped [Kendrick] and stole” his sneakers. He ended up with a bloody nose and “walking home in his socks was painful.”
  • Mateo has a nightmare. “My skis disappeared and I flew straight off the mountain while headless birds circled overhead and I kept falling and falling.”
  • Rufus cries, mourning his own death, and becomes violent in response. He narrates, “I hammer at the railing with the bottom of my fist. I keep going and going. . . I stop, out of breath, like I just won a fight against ten dudes.”
  • An angry man, Vin, is said to “like to be feared” which is why he wrestles. However, he got sick and now cannot do that to take out his aggression. This results in him deciding to build a bomb to destroy the gym, those inside, and his coach, as his coach “suggested a new career route.” The narrator says, “Vin is going to die where he was made. And he’s not dying alone.”
  • Mateo and Rufus are caught in the explosion. “Glass shatters and we’re suddenly thrown backward through air as fire reaches out toward a screaming crowd. . . I slam against the driver’s side of a car, my shoulder banging into the rearview mirror. My vision fades—darkness, fire, darkness, fire.” He has no idea what happened, just that “Rufus is struggling to open his eyes and others are screaming. But not everyone. There are bodies on the ground, faces kissing cement.” He sees a woman whose “blood is staining a rain puddle.”
  • Deirdre is described “on the ledge of her apartment building” contemplating suicide. She sees people below and assumes they are betting on “if she’s a Decker,” or someone who knows they will die that day. Deidre says, “The blood and broken bones on the pavement will settle their wager.” It is said that this is not the first time she has thought about killing herself.
  • When Deidre was in a fight at school when she was young, someone called her “that lesbian with the dead parents.” This prompted her to go to a ledge, though her friend talked her out of killing herself.
  • Rufus seems to have struggled with suicidal thoughts before. He tells Mateo, “There was a point where I didn’t think any of this was worthwhile.” He goes on to say, “I would’ve been game with game over…but surviving showed me it’s better to be alive wishing I was dead than dying wishing I could live forever.”
  • Rufus tells Mateo he doesn’t deserve to die. Mateo responds that no one does. Rufus asks, “Except serial killers, right?” However, Mateo does not respond, implying he believes they are no exception.
  • Peck’s friend has been “stealing candy from the drugstore . . . fighting those who are the Goliath to his David. Starting a gang.”
  • Peck’s friend wants to hurt those who hurt Peck. He “imagines Rufus’s face where the dartboard is. He throws the dart and shoots bull’s-eye—right between Rufus’s eyes”.
  • The narrator says, “Peck will gain respect by unloading his gun into the one who disrespected him.”
  • Mateo hugs his best friend, Lidia. “She says everything in this hug—every thank-you, every i-love-you, every apology.” Mateo returns the hug. However, after a moment “Lidia steps back and slaps [him] hard across the face.”
  • A police officer is afraid of getting the call every night, “especially since losing his partner two months ago.” His partner died tracking someone participating in Bangers, which encourages Deckers to “kill themselves in the most unique way possible” and post videos that can win their family money. However, he says, most do not win, and “you don’t exactly get a second shot.” The Decker’s attempt to kill themselves resulted in the partner’s death.
  • There is a car crash. In the midst of a car ride, “Sandy’s eyes widen” then “the car jerks and Howie closes his eyes, a deep sinking in his chest.” The crash is narrated from the perspective of the boys who caused the accident. “The two boys laugh when one car bangs into another, spinning out of control until it crashes against the wall.” A girl survives the accident and remembers the “way [Howie’s] head banged against the reinforced window, heard the sickening crack that will stay with her forever—”
  • Peck pulls out the gun at the club, intending to kill Rufus. There is a stampede and Mateo says, “People are stepping on me and this is how I’m going to die, a minute before Rufus gets shot to death.”
  • There is a fight to get Peck to put the gun away. “Mateo punches Peck in the face.” Then, “Peck’s homie swings at Mateo” and someone runs “into Peck and his boy like a train, carrying them through the air as the gun drops, and he slams them against the wall.” Rufus is able to get the gun after he kicks “Peck’s other boy . . . in the face as he goes to grab it. . . Rufus unloaded the gun. All the bullets find their way into the wall.”
  • Mateo dies in a fire. “When I switch on the burner, my chest sinks with regret. Even when you know death is coming, the blaze of it all is still sudden.”
  • Rufus fights through the fire to try to find Mateo. He inhales a lot of smoke but reenters the apartment. He finds Mateo and grabs “Mateo, my fingers sink deep into boiled skin . . . half of his face is severely burned, the rest is deep red.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Mateo regrets that “no one will ever get high with [him].”
  • Rufus describes his appearance in a photo saying, “my eyes uneven, kind of like when I’m high, which I wasn’t (yet).”
  • Two potential Last Friends reach out to Mateo with the message subject line being “420?” Mateo narrates, “I ignore Kevin and Kelly’s message; not interested in pot.”
  • Rufus says the gas station “smells like piss and cheap beer.”
  • Mateo changes his profile to only allow Deckers to reach out, “so I don’t have to deal with anyone looking to buy a couch or pot.”
  • A girl approaches Rufus on the train who has “an extra can of beer” and asks, “Want one?” Rufus refuses.
  • Rufus later takes pictures of the “crushed beer cans and water bottles” on the train.
  • Mateo does not regret going to the party but thinks, “I don’t want to be around people who get so drunk they pass out and eventually black out the nights they’re lucky to be living.”
  • A girl has a cigarette at one point.
  • Officer Andrade and his partner “traded dad jokes over beers.”
  • Officer Andrade plans to “share a beer” with his partner in heaven.
  • Lidia says while drinking, “I wish this had some kick to it . . . I can’t be sober when I lose you.”
  • Rufus and Mateo sing “American Pie” which includes lyrics about “whisky and rye.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes asshole, god, dumbass, jacked up, damn, multiple forms of shit, hell, fuck, pissed, bullshit, ass, bitch/bitching, dope, dick, bastard, motherfucker, and piss.
  • Mateo says he’ll “feel ballsier” once he has said his goodbyes to those he loves.
  • Rufus says to Aimee, “There isn’t a bigger kick to the nuts than you turning your back on the Plutos for the punk-ass kid who got them locked up.”
  • After Mateo talks about wanting to “leave [their] mark,” Rufus jokes, “We going outside to piss on fire hydrants?”
  • When Rufus says he loves the Plutos, he notes that “No one cracks homo jokes.”
  • After Rufus refers to Malcolm and Tagoe as “shadows,” Malcolm jokingly responds, “That because we’re black?”

Supernatural

  • Rufus asks the Death-Cast employee about how they know when people will die. He guesses, “Crystal ball? Calendar from the future?” He remembers the theories told to him about Death-Cast being a “band of legit psychics and . . . an alien shackled to a bathtub and forced by the government to report End Days.”
  • Mateo believes Rufus is not a monster because monsters “trap you in your bed and eat you alive” rather than “come to your home and help you live.”
  • A boy was writing a book about a “demon doctor wearing a stethoscope that could read his patients’ minds.”

 

Spiritual Content

  • Rufus considers taking a picture of Aimee’s church to post to Instagram but decides his “nonbelieving ass” shouldn’t have that as his last post.
  • Aimee is described as “pretty Catholic.”
  • Rufus explains that “Malcom and Tagoe are always mocking the churches that shun Death-Cast and their ‘unholy visions from Satan.’” He goes on, saying that he finds it “dope how some nuns and priests keep busy way past midnight for Deckers trying to repent, get baptized, and all that good stuff.”
  • Rufus says, “If there’s a God guy out there like my mom believed, I hope he’s got my back right now.”
  • Mateo implies that his mother wanted to marry his father before he was born due to “her family’s traditions” believing him to be a “bastard” if she should not. He thinks “the whole bastard thing is stupid.”
  • Rufus and Mateo visit a graveyard and discuss how they, and others, view the afterlife. Rufus thinks that there are two afterlives: one “when Death-Cast tells us to live out our last day knowing it’s our last” and “then we enter the next and final afterlife without any regrets.” He also believes that if we live too long after knowing we will die then “we turn into ghosts who haunt and kill.” He thinks the final afterlife is “whatever you want.”
  • Mateo’s dad “believes in the usual golden-gated island in the sky”, which Lidia likes because “the popular afterlife is better than no afterlife”. Mateo thinks it will be “a home theater where you can rewatch your entire life from start to finish”.
  • Rufus says, “I’m not religious. I believe there’s some alien creator and somewhere for dead people to hang out, but I don’t credit that all as God and heaven.”
  • Mateo says, “I hope reincarnation is real.” This becomes a recurring wish for him. That in another life, he will be able to find Rufus again.
  • Mateo asks if Rufus believes in fate. Rufus says he doesn’t, but Mateo asks, “How else do you explain us meeting? . . . If you can believe in two afterlives, you can believe in the universe playing puppet master.”
  • A girl talks about the book that she is writing which is about reincarnation and a girl trying to find her sister after the sister’s death. The girl also mentions the origins of her name in “a heroine in Irish mythology who took her own life.”
  • Rufus says after cliff jumping, “It’s like I’ve been baptized or some shit, ditching more anger and sadness and blame and frustration beneath the surface.”

by Jennaly Nolan

Six Months Later

In May, Chloe fell asleep in study hall. When she wakes up, snow covers the ground, and she can’t remember the last six months of her life. In the six months she can’t remember, her life has been transformed. Before, she was a struggling student, and college was out of her reach. She also had a hopeless crush on popular jock Blake. Now, Chloe’s SAT scores have given her a chance to attend a top college, and Blake is her boyfriend.

Instead of being disapproving, her mother smiles at her. Instead of hiding a crush, the boy of her dreams is in her arms. Instead of sharing her secrets with her best friend Maggie, Maggie won’t even look at her. Instead of feeling thrilled when Blake wraps his arms around Chloe, she feels revolted. How can Chloe figure out what happened to her? As she looks for the truth, Chloe realizes that remembering the past comes with hidden dangers.

The mystery behind Chloe’s new world will draw the reader in as they follow Chloe’s attempt to discover how she changed so much in just six months. The mystery will capture readers’ attention, but they will keep turning the pages because Chloe is a relatable character who struggles to understand who she is. Chloe and her mother have a turbulent relationship, and although Chloe wants to make her mother proud, she isn’t sure if that is even possible. Teens will understand Chloe’s parental dilemma. Even though Chloe loves her parents, her life’s path cannot be carved out by them.

Six Months Later isn’t just a great mystery, it also has hot romantic scenes. Now that Blake is Chloe’s boyfriend, she doesn’t understand why kissing him feels so wrong. And even though Chloe doesn’t ever remember talking to bad boy Adam, when she looks at him she knows that there is something there. Although a love triangle isn’t a new concept, Six Months Later perfectly weaves the love triangle into the mystery.

With relatable teen conflict, a unique mystery, and a peculiar love interest, Six Months Later will keep readers guessing until the very end. As Chloe unravels the past, she realizes that people’s motives are often complicated and misunderstood. This book will entertain as well as teach about the importance of forgiveness. Six Months Later is a fast-paced story with likable characters that will keep readers up late into the night.

Sexual Content

  • When Blake picks Chloe up for school, she forces herself “to kiss him when he leans in. It’s still stiff and awkward, but it will get better.”
  • When Blake and Chloe kiss, she tips “my head, letting him catch my lips. It’s soft and warm and so damn weird. I feel my shoulders tense, my hands like dead weights at the end of my arms.”
  • Blake and Chloe kiss, but she doesn’t think it feels right. Once when Blake kisses her, she thinks, “I’ve been kissed enough to know when someone’s doing it right. And Blake is technically doing it right, tilting my head just a little. Urging my mouth to open for him. And he’s pressing into me just enough to make things interesting, without mashing his kibbles and bits against my thigh or anything.” When Blake kisses her, Chloe thinks about Adam. “And God, it’s wrongity-wrong-wrong, but for one second, I close my eyes tight and pretend I’m with him. I think of blue eyes and a low laugh and all the things I should never think of now.”
  • After Chloe breaks up with Blake, she kisses Adam. “His lips are soft and hard together, sending electric shocks through every inch of me. I’m heavy and trembling under his kiss, my half-frozen hands fisting in the front of his shirt, soaking in his warmth. My mouth slides open with a sign, and the kiss goes on and on. . . I can’t think about a single thing outside of the feel of his arms and the taste of his mouth against mine.”
  • Adam and Chloe kiss several times. While they are talking, Adam “leans in, kissing me once, long and soft and deep enough that I almost forget where I am.”
  • At lunch, Adam and Chloe sit in his car. Adam “pulls me toward him on the bench seat. And then his lips are trailing along my jay wand I couldn’t spell distracted if someone paid me it feels so good. We kiss until we’re running dangerously close to second base during school hours.”
  • Adam tries to get Chloe to stay away from him. When he does, she tugs “him hard by the lapels of his coat because he’s so tall that going up on tiptoes isn’t going to be enough. I kiss him, and at first his lips are hard and unrelenting. . . I ignore it. . . Adam’s hands drop to my shoulders and then he’s kissing me like he’s absolutely starved for it.”
  • Because of her memory disturbance, Chloe is afraid that she might have had sex. “My stomach does an ugly barrel roll. I take a breath and press my lips together. Could I forget something like that?”
  • When Chloe tells Adam that she loves him, he “pulls me in. His kiss is sweet and lingering, his hands trailing up my back and into my hair. It pushes out all of the cold and the fear of this night, leaving me warm and strong.”
  • When Chloe’s dad stands up for Adam, she thinks, “it’s strange. My dad defending a boy I’m making out with on a regular basis is pretty much a portent of impending apocalypse.”

Violence

  • When Chloe was in elementary school, Ryan teased Chloe’s friend and Chloe hit Ryan in the nose. “I can still practically feel that moment; the sharp, shocking pain in my knuckles and the sickening feeling that went through me when Ryan’s nose spurted blood.”
  • Chloe finds her psychiatrist “slumped over the desk. There’s a giant red-black puddle beneath her, all over the pretty desk planner.”
  • A girl hits Adam. Chloe sees “something flying by my face and then I hear the sickening smack of flesh against flesh. Adam’s jaw whips back, and I cry out as I see blood bloom on his lip.”
  • When someone threatens to hurt Chloe’s friends, she grabs a syringe and explains, “I pull the cap off and lunge. I stab the closest thing I can find and push the plunger hard and fast. . . He roars and slams his hand against my arm, batting me away. The needle still dangles from his neck when he punches at me again. This time I’m faster. I dodge left.” The man is not seriously injured.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Adam’s grandmother is an alcoholic. When Chloe goes to Adam’s apartment, she sees “the row of liquor bottles” on the back counter.
  • When Adam’s grandmother answers the door, Chloe wonders “if the smell of booze coming off her is any indication of how she’s spent her evening.”
  • In the past, Adam broke into a pharmacy and stole drugs. Adam stole drugs for his grandmother because “she gets confused a lot. She had a period when she flushed her medicine down the toilet all of the time.” The insurance wouldn’t pay for more, so he stole more.
  • While making dinner together, Chloe’s dad grabs a Samuel Adams.
  • As a secret study, some teens are given a drug called benzodiazepine, which causes “vivid dreams. Increased cognitive ability. Dry mouth. Excessive thirst. Sleepwalking. Headaches. Paranoid delusions. And my personal favorite—memory disturbances.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes ass, crap, bitch, damn, pissed, hell, freaking, and shit.
  • Fucking is used once. Adam says, “He sold it to me as my only way out of this shit-hole town and I bought it, Chloe. I bought it hook, line, and fucking sinker.”
  • “Oh God” and “God” are frequently used as exclamations.
  • Chloe calls someone a “twisted bastard.”
  • A girl asks Chloe, “Do you think only sluts wear red?”
  • When Chloe wakes up confused, she wonders if a boy is playing a joke on her. Then she thinks, “Blake isn’t into that kind of juvenile crap. He’s on the Bully Patrol, for God’s sake.”
  • When a boy questions Chloe, she thinks, “Oh my God, I’m like a freaking parrot. Words, Chloe. Find some and spit them the hell out!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Chloe says “Thank God” occasionally. For example, when she wakes up confused and finds her cell phone, she thinks, “Thank God.”
  • Chloe and Maggie have a fight and don’t talk for months. Chloe goes to Maggie’s house to talk and says, “I follow her out of the kitchen, praying my knees will stay strong and I will not start trembling like the nervous wreck that I am.”
  • Chloe refers to God occasionally. For example, when Chloe is on an airplane she thinks, “I’m flying two thousand miles, hoping to God to end up right back where I started.”

 

Genuine Fraud

Imogen, the heiress of a wealthy New York family, has run away from her responsibilities to her family’s mansion on Martha’s vineyard. Jule is her best friend…or so she thinks. Jule is a social chameleon, becoming whoever she wants to be and getting rid of whoever is in her way. But does that include Imogen?

Told backward, Genuine Fraud tells the story of two girls and their intertwining fates as they navigate the adult world that they long to be a part of. However, this is no charming tale of growing up and friendship, but a dark thriller that takes the reader on mysterious twists and turns. The reader never knows who to trust as they delve deeper into the story. At the end of the story, the reader is confused by questions that are never truly answered.

Although the Genuine Fraud has an exciting premise, the story never quite lives up to the promised thrill. Instead of ending with a narrative payoff, the plot feels like it traveled in a circle. Because the main mystery isn’t solved, it doesn’t really matter what happens in between. At the end of the book, there are so many questions that were not answered that the reader will be left wondering why they suffered through to the end.

Fans of We Were Liars will be disappointed with the lack of charm and relatability of all of the characters. Both Jule and Imogen are not sympathetic figures, and they never connect with the audience. Although Imogen is constantly presented as “fun” and “bubbly,” she comes across as a spoiled rich girl running away from minor problems. Instead of creating unique characters, the characterization relies on overdone tropes and stereotypes.

This book is not suitable for younger readers as it is a thriller that uses a fair amount of profanity and violence. The main character Jule is constantly using brute force to get what she wants. This enables several disturbingly gory scenes that may be too much even for older audiences. These factors, combined with a plot that fails to fully draw the reader in, contribute to the overwhelmingly disappointing nature of Genuine Fraud.

Sexual Content

  • The head soccer coach at Stanford “was a perv… touching all the girls.”
  • Jule gets a ride from a bartender named Donovan, and when he suddenly becomes predatory, she wonders, “Was Donovan one of those guys who thinks a girl who wants a favor has to mess around with him?”
  • Jule describes herself as “brutal,” but says, “that’s [her] job and you’re uniquely qualified, so it’s sexy.”
  • When Jule tried to think of better times, she “remembered the feel of Paolo’s lips on hers.”
  • Imogen’s boyfriend, Forrest, is a main character in the novel, and they often kiss.
  • When Jule goes to Las Vegas, a woman asks her if she is a “working girl,” and tells her “don’t sell yourself.” Jule is not a prostitute but was just wearing heavy amounts of makeup.
  • When Jule was in an arcade, “two boys she knew from school came up behind her and squeezed her boobs. One on each side.”
  • When Forrest comes to Jule to find out information about Imogen who is missing, he asks her, “Did you want to sleep with her?”
  • Jule tells Forrest that she had three boyfriends during her time at Stanford.
  • Imogen thought she was pregnant and spent “all week skipping class and reading people’s abortion stories on the internet. Then one day I finally get my period.” Her boyfriend then broke up with her after she told him the news.
  • When confronted with a boy she had once kissed, Jule thinks she “didn’t need a guy, wasn’t sure she liked guys, wasn’t sure she liked
  • Jule makes out with Paolo. “He kissed her then, under the streetlight… He kissed like he couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else on the planet, because wasn’t this so nice, and didn’t this feel good?”
  • Brooke had “a series of boyfriends and one girlfriend, but never love.”
  • Imogen “hooked up” with guys while at college, making it hard to hold on to a boyfriend. These events are not described, just referenced.
  • Brooke goes to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco with Lupton because she wanted to “get in his pants.”
  • Jule gets an email from Vivian that reported, “that she was in love with Isaac Tupperman and she hoped Imogen would understand because there is no controlling the human heart.”
  • Jule talks to a couple at a bar who are arguing over the movie Pretty Woman. The woman dislikes the movie because she says, “The perfect girlfriend is a whore who does ya for free. Disgusting.” The couple later discusses how Julia Roberts’s character is a sex worker.
  • Jule tells Imogen a story from high school when her track team had a “full-on naked battle, in the showers, three against one.” Imogen remarks that it sounds like a “prison porno movie.”
  • Imogen hires an attractive housecleaner named Scott. Imogen’s friend wanted him to “wash my grapes, strip down, and lick my whole body from head to toe.”
  • Jule goes to the grocery store and when she comes back, “Imogen and Forrest were naked, wrapped around each other in the swimming pool.”
  • Imogen tells Jule a story about when she stayed in London for a summer program and her roommates were “absolutely going at it on the floor of the kitchen one day, like fully nude and yelling. I must have walked in at just a major effing moment, if you know what I mean.”

Violence

  • Jule sees “a scar wound down her right forearm, jagged, like from a knife, not clean like from an operation” on a woman that she meets and thinks, “There was a story there.”
  • Jule believed, “the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”
  • Jule creates a false origin story about herself in which her eight-year-old self finds her parents “in the grass facedown. Their bodies are crumpled and limp. The blood pools black underneath them. Mama has been shot through the brain. She must have died instantly. Papa is clearly dead, but the only injuries Jule sees are on his arms. He must have bled out from his wounds.” In this story, Jule is shot in the ankle and is taken to a specialized academy to be trained, similar to a spy. This is just a story that she tells about herself, and it isn’t actually true.
  • After feeling swindled by Donovan, Jule “brought her forearm up hard, snapped his head back, and punched him in the groin…. Jule grabbed his slick hair and yanked his head back…. He jabbed with one elbow, slamming Jule in the chest…. Donovan kicked out, hitting her in the shin. Jule punched him on the side of the neck and he crumpled forward….Jule grabbed a metal lid from one of the nearby trash cans and banged it on his head twice and he collapsed on a pile of garbage bags, bleeding from the forehead and one eye.”
  • Imogen had two marks on her upper right arm that, “the nurse at Vassar told me they were burns. Like from a cigarette.”
  • Jule spread a story saying, “Imogen Sokoloff had killed herself in that selfsame river, weighing her pockets with stones and jumping off the Westminster Bridge, leaving a suicide note in her bread box.”
  • When Jule was fifteen, two boys squeezed her boobs. In retaliation, she, “elbowed one sharply in his soft stomach, then swung around and stomped hard on the other one’s foot. Then she kneed him in the groin….When that boy bent over, coughing, Jule turned and hit the first one in the face with the heel of her hand.”
  • Jule murders Brooke, and it is vividly described. “She swung once, hard, coming down on Brooke’s forehead with a horrid crack…Brooke’s head snapped back….Jule moved forward and hit her again. This time from the side. Blood spurted from Brooke’s head. . . She got Brooke’s legs, which scrabbled on the ground. . . and lurched her up and over [the railing]. . . here was a dull crack as her body hit the tops of the trees, and another as she landed at the bottom of the rocky ravine.”
  • When Jule gets drunk, she tells a woman about a boy who threw a slushy in her face. She then, “brought up my knee and caught him in the jaw. Then I swung the shoe…. I brought it right down on the top of his head…. I hit him with the shoe, again and again…. He lay with his mouth hanging open…. Blood out his nose. He looked dead.” She didn’t actually kill him, but did cause serious damage.
  • Jule murders Imogen when they are on a boat together and get into an argument. “The paddle end hit Imogen in the skull. Sharp edge first. Immie crumpled…. She brought the board down on that angel face. The nose cracked, and the cheekbones. One of the eyes bulged and gushed. Jule hit a third time and the noise was terrific, loud and somehow final.”
  • Scott, Imogen’s housecleaner, kills himself. “He had hanged himself with rope from a beam high up in a neighbor’s barn. He had kicked out a twenty-foot ladder.”
  • Jule’s father, “bled himself out, naked in a bathtub.”
  • Noa, a private detective hired to find Imogen, discovers Jule at a resort in Mexico. Jule attacks her. “Noa’s head jerked back, and Jule swung the suitcase hard. It hit Noa in the side of the skull, knocking her to the floor… Noa hit the floor and scrambled for Jule’s ankle with her left hand while she reached toward her pant leg with the right…. Jule steadied herself against the wall and kicked Noa in the face.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Jule hangs out at a bar in Mexico where she is staying at a resort and talks to the bartender, Donovan, about the drinks that he makes.
  • When walking through José del Cabo, Jule sees many American tourists who were, “all drunk and loud.” Many of them were “getting sloshed after a day of sport fishing.”
  • Imogen’s birth mother died by overdosing on meth.
  • Imogen’s father, Gil, died of a long-term illness and the characters often discussed how he had to take a lot of pills.
  • Jule had dinner in Vegas where she saw “a crowd of drunk guys [who] barged in talking about beer and burgers.”
  • Imogen asks Jule about the party scene at Stanford and asks, “With no beer and people being all intellectual?”
  • In the story that Jule creates about Imogen killing herself, she writes a suicide letter that says, “By the time you read this, I’ll have taken an overdose of sleeping pills.”
  • A drunk girl asks Paolo if he wants to get a drink.
  • Brooke’s death is seen as an accident. Paolo tells Jule that, “they think she’d been drinking. She hit her head and nobody found her till this morning… They found her car in the lot with an empty vodka bottle in it.”
  • Jule got drunk for the first time at the island of Culebra. “Jule’s drink arrived. She drained it and asked for another. And another.”
  • A man that lived on Culebra told Jule that he “had a little marijuana business…. I used to grow it in my walk-in closet with lights and then sell it…. But the cops busted me.”
  • When Imogen was in Culebra, she “drank a lot. She had waiters bringing her margaritas poolside.”
  • The people who hung out at Imogen’s Martha’s Vineyard house were, “funny and nonathletic, chatty and rather alcoholic, college kids or art students.”
  • Jule’s roommate, Lita, had friends that came over, “speaking Polish and smoking cigarettes.”

 Language

  • Profanity is used frequently throughout the novel. Profanity includes: damn, hell yes, effing, fuck, dick, fucking, fuckload, and shit.
  • The hotel that Jule stayed at in Cabo San Lucas was a “bloody great hotel.” Jule frequently used the word “bloody” when she was pretending to be British.
  • Jule had, “watched a shit-ton of movies.”
  • Imogen calls herself and others an “asshole” a few times.
  • God and oh God are used as exclamations a few times.
  • Paolo says that it is “hellish” to talk to his mother on the phone.
  • Brooke’s roommate “bitched” because Imogen was in their room so early.
  • Brooke said that “Vivian was a huge witch to me.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual

  • Imogen is Jewish and “celebrated all the Jewish holidays and, when she grew up, she had an unorthodox bat mitzvah ceremony in the woods upstate.”
  • Shanna tells Jule that she “can have anything if you set your mind to it. You pray and you, like, visualize.”
  • A drunk man on a beach sings, “God rest ye merry gentlemen.”
  • When Brooke asks Jule if she is Jewish, she responds, “I’m not anything…I don’t celebrate.”

Not If I Save You First

When they were ten, Maddie and Logan were best friends. Maddie thought they’d be friends forever. Maddie never cared that Logan was the president’s son. But fate dealt their friendship a deadly blow. When her Secret Service Agent father almost dies trying to save the president’s son, everything changes.

After he almost dies, Maddie’s father exchanges the White House for a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Maddie had no phone. No internet. No friends. And no Logan. When she first moved to Alaska, Maddie wrote letter after letter to Logan, but he never replied.

Six years later, Logan appears outside of her cabin and Maddie wants to kill him. Before she can take action, an assailant appears, almost killing Maddie and dragging Logan off into the wilderness. Maddie could go back for help, but the weather is treacherous and getting worse. Maddie goes after Logan, but she’s not sure if she’s going to save him or kill him.

In typical Ally Carter style, Not If I Save You First begins with suspense and leaves the reader turning pages until the very end. Maddie is a strong heroine that doesn’t need to rely on a guy—not even the Secret Service men—to save the day. She hides her strength and smarts behind a girly persona, which makes her incredibly likable. Her conflicting emotions regarding Logan add interest and suspense to an action-packed story.

Unlike her other books, Not If I Save You First contains violence that is often described in bloody, but not gory, detail. The storyline revolves around a kidnapping, which is a more realistic storyline than Carter’s previous books. Because of this, readers can put themselves in the character’s situation. The story has several plot twists that will surprise readers and concludes with an epic fight between good and evil. When readers finish Not If I Save You First, they will feel as though Maddie is a new friend.

Sexual Content

  • When Maddie kisses Logan, he wishes he wasn’t in handcuffs because he “couldn’t hold her, touch her, pull her close and keep her near and never, ever let her go.” He’s disappointed when he discovers that she kissed him, so she could give him the keys to the cuffs.
  • Logan and Maddie kiss several times. One time, “he was growing closer and closer and then her lips were on his again, warmer now. She tasted like snow and berries and it was the sweetest thing that Logan and ever known.”
  • When Maddie and Logan are at school, Logan kisses her, “right there in front of their school and his Secret Service detail—right in front of the world. So she kissed him back again. And again. And again.”

Violence

  • Russian terrorists attempt to kidnap the president’s wife. In the process, one of the terrorists shoots at the president’s son. Maddie’s father jumps between the man and the president’s son and shoots at the terrorist. The terrorist, “looked down at his chest, at the place where blood was starting to ooze from beneath his ugly tie, and he dropped to his knees. Then the floor. He didn’t move again.”
  • While trying to protect the president’s wife and son, Maddie’s father is shot. Even though he was hurt, he tries to go help the first lady, and “he was still dragging himself toward the box. Blood trailed behind him. . .” During the altercation, the president’s son was shot too.
  • A man kidnaps Logan and in the process, hurts Maddie. “And Maddie spun just in time to see the butt of a gun slicing towards her. She actually felt the rush of air just before the sharp pain echoed through her face, reverberating down to her spine.” When she tries to get up, the man kicks her, “a sharp pain slammed into her stomach.” The man then pushes her off a cliff and leaves her to die.
  • Logan attempts to escape, knocking the man to the ground. “The two of them rolled, kicked and tangled together. Logan managed to strike the man in the stomach, but it was like he didn’t even feel it.” Logan stops fighting when the man has him pinned down.
  • Logan attempts to escape again. Even though his hands were cuffed, “he slammed them into the man’s gut, pounding like a hammer with both fists. . .” The man pulls a knife and begins “cutting into the soft flesh between his pinkie finger and its neighbor. . . then he saw the bright red drop of blood that bubbled up from his too-white skin.”
  • Logan tries to take a satellite phone from the man. “Logan elbowed him in the ribs, but a moment later he was pinned against the ground. . . Facedown in the mud, the cold seeped up from the ground and into Logan’s bones. . .” When Logan’s face is pushed into the mud, Maddie appears and the fight stops.
  • To prove that he doesn’t value Maddie’s life, the man, “pulled back his hand, and hit her hard across the face. Her head snapped and Logan actually heard the blow. . . His hand was around her throat, fingers not quite squeezing, but close.”
  • The man shoots a ranger. “He fired. Once. Twice. And the ranger fell.”
  • In a plot to escape, Maddie blows up a bridge. “. . . the old ropes and wood exploded in a wave of color and fire and heat. . .”
  • The man recaptures Maddie and, he “jerked Maddie against him, sliding the barrel of the gun along the smooth skin of her cheek like she needed a shave.” Logan tries to help her and the two men fight, so Maddie “kicked Stefan’s shin, right where the bear trap must have caught him, because he howled in pain, dropping the gun and bringing both hands to his legs.”
  • Another bad guy surprises Maddie by grabbing her and “the man pulled her back against him and squeezed her tight, his own gun suddenly pressed to her temple.” Later Maddie, “dropped to the icy ground and kicked at his legs, knocking him off balance. . .” She shoots at the trees causing limbs to break and fall on the man. “. . .When the ice-covered limb landed atop him, he didn’t move again.”
  • The climax takes place over several chapters in which punches are thrown, people are shot, and Maddie’s father has a knife held against his throat. In order to save a life, Maddie throws a knife at a man and, “he looked from the knife in his own hand to the blade that was stuck hilt-deep in his chest, right where his heart would have been if he had one.” The man dies.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Freaking is used twice.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Sanctuary Bay

Sarah thought Sanctuary Bay was her ticket to a better life. She was wrong.

When Sarah receives a scholarship to an elite school, she thinks she’s finally found a place where she can fit in. No longer seen as a foster kid, Sarah is soon initiated into a secret society, the Wolfpack, where she no longer feels like an outsider, but part of the family. Her roommates, Izzy and Karina, who are also members of the Wolfpack, show Sarah that being one of them can lead to a life of luxury—after all, the students who attend Sanctuary Bay come from affluent families. They want Sarah to be one of them.

As the mission becomes more intense, Sarah must ask herself how far is she willing to go to remain part of the group?  When her roommate suddenly disappears, Sarah wonders if she is missing or murdered.  In a race to discover what happened to Karina, Sarah must decide who to trust. And in the end, she discovers that danger and deception hide around every turn.

Suspenseful and full of surprises, Sanctuary Bay’s graphic description brings the setting alive. The reader will be at the edge of their seat wondering how the strange events all come together. The story comes alive because it is told from Sarah’s point of view and the reader gets to experience Sarah’s wonder, fear, and confusion as the plot unfolds.

Set on an isolated island with no contact with the outside world, Sanctuary Bay leaves the reader wondering if this high-tech school could be real. Add into the equation that there is an abandoned WWII POW camp and an abandoned insane asylum, and the reader must work hard to believe some of the aspects of the story. The ending is even more far-fetched than the setting of the story.

The sexual content, language, and violence, which is described in detail, is not meant for the younger reader and many older readers may not be ready for the graphic images in the story.

Sexual Content

  • Sarah was in foster care. She liked her current foster home because “no one tried to slide into bed with her. There’d been no hitting or screaming.” Later, Sarah thinks about when “a foster dad came after her a couple of times when she was seven and another place a foster kid had tried some stuff when she was eleven.” However, nothing else is said about the events.
  • In the cafeteria, Karina’s boyfriend kisses her. “Not just a quick hello. A kiss. It went on so long a couple of guys at the nearby table started to hoot encouragement.”
  • The students get a video sent to them, “At first Sarah thought somebody had managed to send a porn clip to everyone, but then she realized that the woman she was looking at was a teacher she’d seen in the halls. And the other woman getting down and dirty with her was Maya. . . One student comments, “What is it about a freckled ass? It makes me want to play connect-the-dots with my tongue.”
  • As part of a mission, Sarah must kiss Karina’s boyfriend. “Sarah slid her hands up his back and knotted her hands in his hair—so thick and silky—then pulled his head down to meet hers. . . his tongue was already brushing against the seam of her lips, urging her mouth open, then his tongue was inside, tangling with hers, his hands on her waist, pulling her body flush against his.”
  • At a party for the secret society, the students play a game. “Guys grab the end of a strip with a knot in it and tie it around your wrist. Girls do the same, except use the end with no knot. When you find out who’s tied to you—well, you take it from there. . . Girls who want girls, use the green, either end. Guys who want guys, same with the red. Experimentation, as always, is welcome.” Sarah in paired up with Nate. “Sarah knelt behind him, spreading her legs so that she held his body between them. His neck . . . she still hadn’t finished exploring it. She lowered her mouth and ran her tongue across the edge of his hairline, loving the faint taste of his sweat . . . Sarah gave him a little nip, enjoying the give of his flesh under her teeth.” The make-out scene is described in detail in three paragraphs.
  • Karina’s boyfriend strides up to Sarah and, “He didn’t say a word when he reached her. He just grabbed her butt and jerked her tight against him, then bent his head and kissed her.”
  • Sarah and Nate kiss. “He deepened the kiss, his tongue exploring her mouth slowly. It was nothing like the hard, demanding kiss Ethan had given her that night after the movie. . . She let her tongue flick against his, pulling him closer against her.”

Violence

  • Sarah’s parents are killed when she is young. “Mommy on her knees facing the hotel room wall. The finger pulled the trigger of the gun . . . Mommy collapsing on the floor. Red spilling out.”
  • When Sarah spies on her roommates, she sees a group of students burying someone alive. “As they moved across the clearing past Sarah’s hiding spot, she heard a scratching, scrabbling sound, followed by a muted scream. . . Sarah’s eyes darted back to Izzy, Karina, and Nate. They just stood there. No horror on their faces. No cry of protest.” Later Sarah finds out the person that was in the coffin is fine; burying him alive was just a prank.
  • When Sarah is found spying on her roommates, she is gagged, tied up, and thrown into an old underground Nazi prison cell.
  • Sarah is taken into a strange meeting room, where, “One of the maroon-robbed followers approached and held a clay bowl at the base of Sarah’s throat. . . Even when the blade pierced her flesh, and a trickle of her blood ran down her neck and into the bowl, she still didn’t die.” The group then asks Sarah to join a secret society.
  • Izzy tells about a time when she was date-raped. “It was going too fast for me. But he wouldn’t stop . . . I just wanted him to get off of me.” He fell and hit his head on the side of a coffee table. “There was blood everywhere and I couldn’t stop it. It happened so fast. Suddenly he was . . . dead. He was still warm and everything, but his eyes were empty. He was gone.”
  • As punishment for breaking the rules of the secret society, Grayson is branded. “. . . Revealing Grayson Chandler tied down on a filthy mattress. Naked. Her flesh covered with goosebumps, nipples erect. Eyes wide with terror. . . Sarah’s stomach gave a slow, sickening roll as she saw that the rough rope had rubbed away the skin on Grayson’s wrist and ankles, leaving the flesh raw and bleeding. . . hearing the sizzle, from smelling the smoke and the frying-meat scent of Grayson’s burning flesh.”
  • In order to bring the Wolfpack closer together, the group sacrifices one of their own. “Using a strip of black leather, they tied her wrist to an iron ring that had been screwed into the thick, dark trunk, high over her head.” Nate offers a gun to the group, asking who will pull the trigger. Karina’s roommate, “Izzy snatched the pistol. She took a step away from the group, turned toward Karina, raised the gun, and fired. . . Sara stared down into Izzy’s eyes. They were expressionless and empty.”
  • Sarah and Ethan find Izzy strapped down to a hospital bed with a port connected to the back of her head.  When she is released, Izzzy attacks a guard and bites Ethan in an attempt to get away.
  • Nate begins talking to himself. “He pushed his hand into his short dark hair and managed to grab a hunk of it. ‘Stop!’ he yanked his hand away, hair and skin and blood coming with it.” He then steps off a cliff. “Far below, on the jagged black rocks in the water, lay Nate. Blood poured from his head. His body was shattered, limbs protruding from the robe at horrifying angles. He was dead.”
  • As Sarah and Ethan are trying to discover what happened to their friends, they sneak into a secret facility. When a nurse sees them, “Sarah punched her in the face. When the woman hit the floor, Ethan jumped on top of her, covering her mouth with his hand.” They gag the woman, tie her up, and put her outside where someone will find her later.
  • A fire breaks out and Nate and Sarah begin taking the restraints off of the people. “Izzy had gotten free of her restraints, and she was beating a nurse with an IV pole. The guy was on the floor already, and his head was bloody.”
  • A man attacks Nate and Sarah. Izzy soon appears. “Izzy snarled, tearing at him with one hand, stabbing him with the other . . . the scalpel plunged into him again and again, and Sarah stumbled away, Ethan by her side, as blood spurted into the air.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Sarah meets her new roommates, she is offered a cocktail. Sarah turns down the cocktail because she, “didn’t plan on meeting the dean . . . drunk off her ass.”
  • At the school one of the teachers “does impart some insane weed” and there are parties where students drink and make out.
  • During the secret societies events, the members drink “blutgrog” which she is told has, “ground bone from the POW prisoners, and their dried blood.” Sarah’s blood is also added when she is joining the group. The drink magnifies every sensation and makes people lose their inhibitions.

Language

  • When Sarah meets a girl, the girl complains about missing shopping. Sara thinks, “That’s what we call a first-world problem, bitch.”
  • When Sarah sees her new school, she says, “No fucking way.”
  • After seeing the dean, Sarah’s roommate asks, “What kind of shoes was Farrell wearing? She’s such a shoe whore.”
  • Karina is told that her, “boyfriend is kind of an ass. . . Nice butt though.” Later, Sarah wonders, “Why is Karina with this asshole?”
  • When talking about Karina’s boyfriend, her roommate says, “And you’re like one of those battered women who stay with their abusers . . . because you loooove them. All heart and no brain.” Karina gasped and says, “Fuck you, Izzy.”
  • Sarah is watching Karina’s boyfriend and thinks, “goddamn those perfect lips of his.”
  • Sarah thinks about an upcoming Wolfpack ceremony. “Three days before I’m supposed to help kill someone, and I’m drinking a beer at a bonfire. How fucked up is that?”
  • The teens in the story use profanity habitually. The profanity includes: hell, pissed, crap, badass, ass, shit, fuck, and bullshit.

Supernatural

  • Sarah has memory waves where she is back in the memory, but she can remember everything, including taste and smells.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Alex Rider: Never Say Die

Alex is now living in San Francisco, trying to recover from the tragic death of his caregiver, Jack Starbright. Alex was forced to watch Jack’s murder at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA.  With Jack gone, Alex struggles to find his place. When he gets an unexpected and cryptic email, he’s sure it’s from Jack. In an attempt to prove that Jack is alive, Alex boards a flight to Egypt and begins searching for clues to Jack’s whereabouts.

Alex’s story jumps from Egypt to France to Wales. As Alex searches for Jack, he comes face to face with twin brothers, who plan to kidnap the children of the wealthiest citizens of the world. Soon Alex is caught up in a tangle of intrigue that may lead to his death.

Packed with action, unexpected twists, and a mystery, Never Say Die will catch readers’ interest from the very first page. Alex is a strong character, who uses his brains to get out of difficult situations. The story descriptions will carry the reader into Alex’s world—a world that is often filled with fear. The evil twins and the people who help them are vicious criminals who have no problem murdering anyone that is perceived as a threat. Their willingness to kill and the violent descriptions of the creative ways they murder may cause some readers to have nightmares. Anthony Horowitz tells an engaging story that deals with terrorists, murder, and kidnapping.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A woman kills two pilots by using tetrodotoxin. It “is extremely fast-acting, shutting down a person’s nervous system in minutes. Brad struggled to his feet but died before he was halfway there . . . Sergeant Brad Perkins stared up at her with empty eyes.”
  • Later in the story, the same woman tries to poison Alex. “The deadly poison, tetrodotoxin, shot silently across the room and penetrated his jacket. Alex jerked backward, his shoulders slamming into the door. . . Slowly, he slid down to the floor and lay still.” Luckily, the poisonous dart only hits his wallet. Alex and the woman scuffle. “She was strangling him. The pupils were dancing in her eyes, and her lips were stretched in a smile as she used her weight to press him down, her hands gripping tighter and tighter.” Alex is able to grab a bedside light. “With the very last of his strength, he swung it into the side of the woman’s head. He felt metal connect with bone . . . Dragana keeled over and lay still.”
  • Alex has nightmares about his past when two men tied him to a chair and force him watch a video of “the person he most loves” die. “The car drove out of the fort and into the desert. And then, as it had done the night before and every night after . . .it blew up.”
  • Alex stops two boys from harassing a young boy. The boys retaliate. “Colin swung the knife, aiming for Alex’s chest . . . Alex took hold of his wrist with one hand and his elbow with the other . . . Colin’s hand with the knife rushed past him.” The knife accidentally “sliced across Clayton’s arm.” Colin then tries to hit Alex, who avoids the punch. “Alex was standing next to a lamppost. Colin’s fist slammed into the metal. Alex actually heard his fingers break.”
  • A man tries to capture Alex. The man with a gun tries to get out of a car when “Alex kicked out, slamming the door. The man shouted and fell back . . .” Alex is able to escape.
  • A group of men try to kill Alex. During the scene, which takes place over approximately six pages, Alex is forced to defend himself. One man is knocked unconscious when Alex drops a cannonball “on the side of his head.” Alex makes a cactus bomb and throws it at a man, hitting him in the face.  “It didn’t bounce off. . . Instead it stuck there, with at least a dozen spikes piercing his lips, his cheeks, the side of his nose and one of his eyes, each barb injecting its poison into his nervous system.” One of the men tries to stab Alex, but the man is shot. “. . . His hand became a splash of red and the knife spun away. A second shot, and he was thrown onto his back. Alex knew at once that he wouldn’t be getting up again.”
  • In order to escape from bad men, Alex makes a trap that causes an explosion. The men “both screamed and reeled backwards, crashing into each other. The whole of the bald man’s head seemed to catch fire for a few seconds . . . The other man had thrown himself down. He was rolling over and over on the carpet, his clothes blazing.” As Alex tries to escape, one of the men shoots a woman.
  • Two brothers have their father killed. “. . . Carlo was gunned down in his Jacuzzi by his own bodyguard . . . With Carlo gone, the brothers took control of the family, and the next few years were bloodier and more violent than any that had gone before.”
  • The two brothers go to the hospital to kill a woman by using a trick. “It was one of their favorite tricks, and they would take turns—one watching, one doing the actual work. The wire went straight up her nose and into the medulla oblongata, the nerve mass located at the lower base of the brain . . . she was dead before she knew what had happened.”
  • Two brothers catch Alex spying and tie him to a chair, “his hands tied behind him, the rope so tight that it was cutting into his flesh.” The brothers intend to kill him by using “cement shoes.” A man padlocks a cement block around Alex’s ankle and throws him into the ocean. Alex is saved by a scuba diver.
  • In an attempt to escape, Alex attacks a man with a nail. Alex “smiled with satisfaction as the point drove into Stallone’s neck. Stallone howled and fell back, blood spurting out between his fingers.”
  • The two brothers give a woman cyanide. “She had suddenly become very still. In fact she was staring at the ceiling with empty eyes. Her tongue was sticking out of the corner of her mouth. Her face had gone mauve.”
  • The two brothers kidnap a van full of children and hold them for ransom. When the parents try to negotiate, the brothers discuss killing one of the children. “The important thing is to make sure it’s one of the poorer children. We don’t want to upset any of the billionaires.”
  • When attempting to save the children, a woman takes out one of the bad guys. She hits him with a chisel. “But it was the wooden handle that slammed into his skull, and with a grunt, he fell to one side . . . He was out cold.”
  • As Alex and his friend lead the children to safety, the bad guys try to recapture them. The scene takes place over about a chapter and a half. A security guard dies saving Alex’s life. “Alex saw spatters of blood appear across Philby’s back, forming hideous red stains that spread through his shirt.” During the escape, Alex sets fire to a structure. “Several of the guards had been caught in the blaze. He had heard them screaming.”
  • During the escape scene, Alex puts a thermos in a train’s chimney causing an explosion. The brothers “didn’t even know it had happened. They simply felt a jolt as if some gigantic gust of wind, coming out of nowhere, had hit the Midnight Flyer on its side.” They crash into the face of a mountain. One of the men on the train knows he is going to die. “His face, already badly burned, distorted one last time in sheer terror as the steam locomotive smashed into a solid wall of rock.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the character’s “career had ended following a drunken fight with another pilot. She was twice his size, but even so, she had put him into the hospital. In fact, he was still there.”
  • A character had “drunk too much wine. The third bottle was definitely a mistake, and she had felt quite giddy as she had climbed into the taxi. . .”
  • Two of the characters help in their father’s business. “Even as teenagers, they loved the idea of becoming gangsters and had actually helped their father on occasion—for example, carry drugs inside their teddy bears on international flights.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

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