Genres: Mystery & Detective, Paranormal, Young Adult
My content rating: YA (Child abduction and murder is not shown, but is part of the story)
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?
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from When, but I loved the concept, so I thought I’d give it a try. This book was an emotionally impactful, exciting YA mystery with a paranormal twist (and just a hint of romance), and the blend ended up being just about perfect!
Maddie can see when a person is going to die – she sees their deathdate floating on their forehead. Maddie’s mother has her using her ability to earn a little side money. When a woman comes to Maddie to ask about her daughter’s deathdate, she is thrilled to hear that her extremely sick daughter is going to live a good, long while. But Maddie sees a picture of the woman’s completely healthy son and notices that he’s going to die in just a week, and she can’t help but warn the woman. Unfortunately, the client suddenly thinks that Maddie is just trying to get more money out of her and doesn’t believe Maddie’s story.
Maddie and her best friend, Stubby, decide that they have to try harder to get the woman to believe them so that the boy won’t die, but she refuses to listen. When the boy turns up missing (and then dead) Maddie is suddenly the prime suspect (because, of course, the police don’t believe in her ability). She and Stubby find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation as more and more incriminating evidence is found.
This book is a little hard to talk about without spoilers, so I can’t say as much as I’d like to, but I’ll make my best effort!
What I LOVED:
- The premise. I loved the idea of Maddie’s gift (I’ve actually read another book with this same ability, but that didn’t make me any less interested in it – this book was completely different). The emotional turmoil involved in knowing when everyone around you was going to die would be horrendous (and since Maddie discovers her ability after her father’s death, it’s particularly heartbreaking).
- The pacing. This book grabbed my attention right from the beginning, and never let up. Laurie kept the action moving and the mystery fresh and interesting – I didn’t want to put the book down!
- The mystery. I’m not usually a huge fan of mysteries, but the paranormal element that was added to this one must have been what did the trick – I really enjoyed it! Did I suspect the person who ended up being the murderer? Yes, but I also suspected about a dozen other people, and I found myself often flip-flopping. Laurie left stray clues – some that led to the ultimate conclusion and some that threw you off (which I appreciated). So, every time I thought I had it all figured out, I’d eventually start doubting myself.
- Emotional moments. There were a few really poignant moments in this book that really struck me emotionally, much to my surprise (just because it didn’t seem like the type of book that would really affect me that way). I had to stop myself from breaking down in tears at my son’s swimming lesson (ah, yes, the trials and tribulations of a book lover!).
- The ending. Loved how this book ended – both the exciting climax and the final moments. (Of course, I can’t say any more than that!)
- The romance. The romance in this book is really just a blip on the radar, so it’s not well-developed at all. I’m not listing this as a negative, though, because Laurie really wasn’t focusing on the romance – it’s just a crush and something that adds an interesting element to the end of the book (but I won’t tell why). For this reason, I could easily forgive this.
- A way to prove Maddie’s ability. One thing that did bother me just a little was that I immediately thought of an easy way for Maddie to prove that she wasn’t lying about her ability when the police didn’t believe her. Eventually, Maddie did come up with the same idea, but it took her awhile to get there, and I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t she just …” (I won’t tell you what it was, in case it doesn’t seem as obvious to other people). After living her entire life with this gift, it surprised me that she’d never needed to prove herself before and hadn’t thought of this relatively simple way to do it. Still, she did eventually come up with my solution, so this didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the book very much.
If you’re looking for an emotionally compelling and exciting mystery with a paranormal twist, When is the book for you! I give it 4.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Victoria Laurie is the New York Times bestselling author of 26 books and counting. Victoria divides her time between her two adult mystery series, (The Psychic Eye Mysteries, and The Ghost Hunter Mysteries), and a Y/A thriller, When (Formerly titled Death Date), to be released in early January of 2015.
As a professional psychic, Victoria’s protagonists – psychic Abigail Cooper, and spiritual medium M. J. Holliday – tackle the tricky world of the paranormal while fighting bad guys and demons with plenty of plucky humor and determination.
And using that keen understanding of the paranormal, Victoria also created the character of Maddie Fynn, a teenager with the unique intuitive ability to predict the exact date of someone’s death.
To showcase her writing range, Victoria has also penned a children’s epic adventure series, The Oracles of Delphi Keep.