Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: When by Victoria Laurie

By Victoria Laurie
Release Date: January 13th, 2015
2015 Disney-Hyperion
Ebook Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-1484700082
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Paranormal / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

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?

My Thoughts
When is one of those books that I began reading with a bit of trepidation as I am a huge fan of the author's Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter mystery series and worried that her foray into young adult might be a bit too much for me.  I'm glad to say I didn't have to worry as I really liked this novel, enough to have me reading over 200 pages in one night in order to finish it.  I thought the idea was original and liked the main characters very much, especially Maddie's friend Stubs.

I was drawn into the story fairly quickly and thought the plot was actually quite good.  Maddie can see numbers on people's foreheads and as a young child, didn't understand what the numbers meant until disaster struck her family.  The idea was quite intriguing and right from the beginning, I wondered if there was a way for those numbers to change; I mean life is full of possibilities, and any choices we make can always alter the future.  It was definitely an interesting thing to think about as I read through the story, and wondered how far the author would actually take the numbers thing.  I was quite satisfied with what happened in that regard, and thought the author handled the concept quite well.  

I liked Maddie very much as a character; she was confused, had low self-esteem, worked hard at school in order to get a scholarship one day, was loyal to her friends (even when one of them got involved in what was happening and was accused of things, she remained staunch and loyal), cried when things were too difficult for her to handle, and was stubborn as well.  There were times when I did want to shake her, but she is only sixteen, and can't behave like an adult every moment of the day; it just made things more realistic.  I have a teenager at home and I wouldn't have believed it otherwise if her behaviour was always exemplary, and she didn't have moments of "teenagerism".  

Where I did have to suspend my belief however, is towards the FBI and their original treatment of her.  Having very little proof of her guilty actions on said day of murder, the agents came down pretty hard on her and I wasn't too thrilled with how that storyline went down.  Interviewing a minor without an adult present, in front of others, just wouldn't have happened, unless corruption was going on, which there could have been.  The principal would have known exactly what the consequences of that action would have been, which I thought was handled very well, but it shouldn't have happened in the first place.   Can corruption happen?  Yes, but this is not the place where I am even going to touch that argument, I just thought it could have been handled better in the book, and I work in the educational field.  Going with that thought though, the author seems to have several themes running through this novel: we've got the alcoholism one with her mother, bullying at school from both students and teachers, harrassment from police officers, loyalty, trust, and friendship themes, and the concept of not judging someone until they have been proven guilty theme.

When was an enjoyable read and the pacing and suspense of the novel kept me interested enough to pretty much read the whole thing in one sitting.  I liked both the main and supporting characters, and thought they developed quite nicely, helping to set up some of the challenges that Maddie faced while dealing with the prospect of being labeled a murderer.  The plot was fun, although I was really skeptical during some of the police and school scenes; it was not always easy to suspend my disbelief and just read the story.  Warner Brothers has already picked up the rights for this book for television so I thought that was interesting.  And the book was left open enough at the end for a possible sequel.  


  1. A very good review, and it sounds like a very different twist.

    1. Thank you. It was different, and it had some very good things in it that I enjoyed.

  2. Enjoyed your review! I really liked this one and thought that the premise was original and well-done. I'd love to see Maddie in a few years to see what she's made of her life!

    Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such...