January 13, 2015
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Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.
Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.
Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late?
There were tow reasons I was immediately drawn to When: the plot's initial similarities to Rachel Ward's Numbers series (Book 1, 2, and 3) which I loved and who the author is. Victoria Laurie's adult series Psychic Eye Mysteries and Ghost Hunter Mysteries have been on my to-read list for an embarrassingly long time. Her standalone (so far as I know) YA debut seemed like the perfect place to start.
I only read the first paragraph of the summary prior to starting the book and was excited to see what it had in store.
Though When's 'death date' idea and its similarity to Numbers initially caught my attention, they're two very different books. There are a few larger parts of the story that are the same (the parent's death, keeping what they see a secret, the law enforcement involvement) but Jem and Maddie's stories are their own.
How the numbers have always been there for Maddie and how she came to realize what they meant was nicely one. We don't just meet her as a teenager, already aware that she's seeing the date people will die. Instead, we get to see what happened that made her realize what the numbers meant, an event that changed her life forever.
It gives a fuller understanding of why Maddie's life is the way it now is. From her relationship with her mother, the readings she does, and even why she makes the decision that leads to her involvement with law enforcement.
Knowing Maddie's past, how what happened as well as what she can do has affected her family, connects readers to Maddie. Even as she's faced with choices the rest of us won't have to make, it's easy to understand her feelings, to feel for her. Maddie's emotions and the actions, maybe especially some of the small ones, really humanize her.
I really liked that Maddie had her already crazy life happening when the police become involved and that life keeps going. Even as all of these new things are added, new stressors, new questions, new scrutiny, new decisions, her life and all she's been doing were still there. Her mother and her alcoholism were still there.
Everything surrounding the law enforcement aspects of the story seemed very well done and felt true to life. How Maddie's not-so-everyday ability fit in with that, was well done. As were the parts about her friendship, any potential romance and her life at school. She can do something that, obviously, not everyone is going to believe and peoples' disbelief and how it impacted her were included nicely.
That When was not just about the investigation or about Maddie's abilities but about that investigation and her abilities and her home life and her relationships and life at school, made for a full, enjoyable book.
The ending is fabulous and I really loved the journey we went on with Maddie, who she was and what she could (and did) do.
Other Books You Might Also Enjoy: Numbers Trilogy by Rachel Ward and The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting
review copy received, via NetGalley, from publisher, thank you