This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

In the high school library that I manage, I know that teens love to read sad books. It’s just a fact. I once made a library display that used printed off emojis to describe the style or genre of the book and the books in the sad-face emoji column were by far the most popular. I love them too: we’ve written before on LGBT books that will make you cry and They Both Die at the End is no exception. I cannot keep copies of it on the shelves. In my experience, teens are coming into the library in small groups of two or three to ask for the book so they can read together, which is really amazing to see. I think I could have 100 copies lining the shelves and it would still have reservations placed on it. One of the other genres they love even more are thrillers, another area we’ve written about before. My goal in creating this list of books like They Both Die At The End is to have a mixture of both, gut-wrenching sad books combined with thrillers, mysteries and also more light-hearted books. I hope you enjoy!

We Were Liars Cover

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Four friends live an idyllic lifestyle, but something is rotten underneath. Candace starts to have migraines, and they begin to sway her reality. Something is wrong, and nobody seems to want to tell her what it is. Is she losing her grip on reality? Is everything the same as it always was? Dreamy and surreal, it’s got a twist that you won’t be able to forget any time soon. If you enjoy the idea of characters making tragic choices and the consequences that occur, like in They Both Die At the End, you’ll love We Were Liars!

Early Departures Cover

Early Departures by Justin A Reynolds

Readers who appreciated the discussion of mortality and meaning that is prevalent in They Both Die at the End will love this! When Q dies during a tragic incident at a party, his best friend Jamal is beside himself with grief. Then, a miracle appears like out of thin air. Jamal and Q’s mother are told that they have a choice: Bring Q back to life for a few more weeks before he dies permanently. A difficult choice, considering there’s the added complication that Jamal always blamed Q for the death of his parents. This is a heart-wrenching story that generates a lot of discussion.

I Hope You Get this Message Cover

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Mysterious beams of energy coming in the forms of messages from a planet called Alma claim to be prepared to destroy Earth in one week.

Well, that’s a bummer. Cate decides to try and find her estranged father while Jesse doesn’t seem to care if the world explodes around them. Adeem has to look inside himself to try to forgive his sister who abandoned him several years before. These interwoven stories focus on the importance of life and our mortality, just like They Both Die At the End, and it makes for a great read.

Sun is Also a Star Cover

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha is a smart, practical person who relies on science and cold hard facts to guide her way through life. She does not fall into the trap that her “dreams will come true” or that her destiny awaits her somewhere. However, when she runs into Daniel on a packed New York City street corner a few hours before being deported with her family back to Jamaica, all of her theories are thrown out of the window. If you enjoyed the human connections in They Both Die At the End, this book will keep you turning the pages.

Noggin Cover

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Travis Coates is dead. Well, he kind of is. What happens is that when Travis dies, they remove his head and freeze it. They then reattach it to another 16 year old’s body that needs a new head. He’s still 16, right? Right, except it’s five years later and a lot of things have changed – especially his girlfriend, if he can even call her that anymore. Noggin is a funny, devastating, and sweet story that deserves all of the positive attention it has received! I loved this, especially the themes of friendship that are also prevalent in They Both Die At the End!

Aversion Cover

Aversion by Kenechi Udogu

Gemma Green has been trained in Aversion, helping people forget a thought that will cause a future disaster. It should be simple: stare into the target’s eyes, force thoughts into their brains, and help them avoid catastrophe. But when she meets Russ Tanner, all bets are off. Russ doesn’t want to be altered or forget what Gemma wants him to forget. In fact, the more she decides to run away from him, the more persistent he gets to find out what makes her tick. This is a fun paranormal romance novella that will bring you back for its sequels! For readers who connected to the theme of dehumanization in They Both Die At the End, Aversion will be the read for you!

Red White and Royal Blue Cover

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Alex and his sister are White House superstars. They can do no wrong, their social media presence is top notch, and everything appears to be gravy for them. However, when tabloids capture an incident with Prince Henry, everything he knows is threatened. To throw another wrench in the gears, Alex finds himself falling for Henry despite knowing that the scandal would cause an international tidal wave. It will make you laugh, cry and fall in love at the same time! Social media plays a big part in They Both Die At the End so if you enjoy stories that have that focus, check this out!

Cemetery Boys Cover

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Yadriel has decided to perform a ritual in order to bring a ghost into the world. Not just any ghost, it’s the ghost of his murdered cousin. The goal is to allow his cousin to finally be free. But Yadriel makes a mistake and summons the wrong ghost. He summons Julian, the school rebel who refuses to go back to the realm of death. Julian wants to stick around and find some answers from his own life. He decides to help Yadriel on the condition that Yadriel will also help him. As their connection grows, Yadriel starts to wonder if he wants Julian to ever leave. Tragedy and romance abound! This novel has it all, just like They Both Die At the End.

The Darkness Outside Us Cover

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

Ambrose needs to rescue his sister. The problem? He’s trapped in outer space and suffering from amnesia. Even worse, he finds out that Kodiak, the boy he hates, is also on the ship somewhere. As Ambrose investigates the mystery – who has been on the ship while he was asleep? Where’s Kodiak? Where’s his sister? – he slowly unravels the truth behind who the real enemy is. They Both Die At the End tells us that the greatest tragedy is to live with regrets, and if these themes appeal to you, check out The Darkness Outside Us!

I Wish You All the Best cover

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Ben has been chucked out of their house by their parents. It’s because they have come out as nonbinary. Faced with absolutely no choices, Ben moves in with their sister Hannah and Thomas, her husband. As Ben’s anxiety grows, they find some respite in speaking to the school therapist and eventually Nathan, whose charisma shines through Ben’s darkness. Nathan acts as a protector to Ben, and Ben finally feels there might be some light in the clouds that have permeated the last few months. This is an uplifting YA book that teens will love. Tragic love, choices and their consequences – this great YA read is for anyone who loved those themes in They Both Die At the End!

There you have it: 10 amazing YA books like They Both Die At the End for your shelves. I know these books will be very popular in my library, I’m sure they will be popular in yours as well!

Interested in getting even more made-for-you book recommendations? Book Riot has their own amazing service, TBR! You’ll be matched with a professional who will recommend books on your favorite reads, genres, and more!

a gif with the text: Tailored Book Recommendations: Real Book Nerds Making Tailored Recommendations That Are Really, Really Good