January 5, 2015
When by Victoria Laurie
Release date: January 13, 2015
This ARC was provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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 thehow, 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?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Early into reading this book, I began making comparisons to The Naturals, which wasn't a bad thing. Obviously, nothing can quite live up to The Naturals in my opinion, but When attempted and succeeded. However, this book had one noticeable gap - a lack of female characters. The only ones that we see for more than one scene are Maddie (obviously), her mother, the grandmotherly neighbor Mrs. Duncan, and Stubs's mother. It may also bother some people that the science of Maddie's ability is never explained. However, that wasn't the focus. Maddie was quickly entangled in a string of murders and that's when I started making comparisons to The Naturals. The feds gets involved, obviously, and the killer has a creepy obsession with our protagonist. I'm not entirely sure if all the crime investigation stuff was accurate, but since I don't know better, I'll take it at face value. After all, this is fiction we're talking about.
I enjoyed the twists and trying to guess who the killer was. I had a pretty good idea at several points, but they turned out to just be red herrings. Also, Victoria Laurie made good use of artistic unity (a fancy term I learned in Intro to Lit last fall). I'm not sure how I felt about the ending of the book, but it wasn't bad.
Character-wise, I felt like Maddie's mother was a bit stereotypical (I've seen too many alcoholic single parents in YA lately). Having a father figure like Donny was great. We needed to see more of Aiden, though. He felt a bit shoehorned in at times. Both the main agents were given unexpected depth that I appreciated since they came off as cliches at the beginning.
Also, hey there's minimal romance, which was a breath of fresh air.
When can be a violent book at times (although nowhere near as bad as The Naturals) and there are a few instances of foul language, including the s-word.
The Verdict: Definitely a fun, cool read. I love the idea of knowing death dates. It's an idea that I know was tossed around during a couple RBWL sessions and on Tumblr, and it's exciting to see books starting to use those ideas. If you enjoyed The Naturals and Prep School Confidential, I think you would probably like When.