Thursday, March 12, 2015

When by Victoria Laurie

For as long as she can remember Maddie has seen the numbers.  Everyone has them and she can see them clearly on every forehead - in person, and in pictures.  When she was little she didn't know what they meant, but that was only until the day that her daddy died, on the date that she saw on his forehead.  Now Maddie and her mother rely on her talent for seeing those dates because there is a special market for those numbers, people facing difficult choices who want to know if the choices they make will make a difference.  People facing cancer treatments, family members facing medical crisis, sometimes people just ask because they are curious.  The numbers never change, and the numbers are never wrong.

It seems like such a harmless gift, useful but harmless.  Being able to see the numbers means Maddie and her mother are outsiders, some of the people in their town going so far as to label them witches.  There is some bullying at school, but her friendship with Stubby helps her cope - but that friendship is not enough to shield her from what is coming.  When Maddie does a reading for Mrs. Tibbolt it seems like the usual kind of reading, until she realises that one of the Tibbolt children is not going to live more than a week.  When the child is found murdered Maddie becomes a suspect, and when a second body is found so does Stubby.  As the circumstantial evidence builds Maddie faces an uphill battle to prove that she can do what she says she can, and it will be a massive uphill battle because the FBI have her in their sights and they are ready to bring her down - even if they have to fight a little dirty to do it.

I didn't have high expectations when I picked up When, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a book that has a surprising amount of depth and world creating.  Maddie and her gift is not totally unique, there has been at least one other book where the main character can see the death date of other people, but When is tied very firmly in the here and now and seems somewhat more believable.  Having a unique gift that makes her somewhat of a social pariah is bad enough for Maddie, but she also has to live with a mother who is more dependent than parent.  As the story unfolds we come to understand more about her mother and why she is the way she is, but in the beginning all we have is Maddie's view on the matter and it is a somewhat bleak outlook.

No story about murder and mayhem would be complete without the appearance of law enforcement, and in this case it is two rather jaded and cynical FBI agents who think that Maddie and Stubby are to blame for the murders.  Maddie and her gift are nothing more than a gimmick to them, and they are determined to bust the myth of her ability to see death dates and close their murder case.  The antagonistic relationships that develop around Maddie are very realistic, as is the bullying and drama at school and at home.  As the mystery draws to a close you think you have it all figured out - but do you really?  An intriguing concept told with a bold new voice.  Maddie is a fantastic character to connect with, and I hope that there are more books of this caliber from Victoria Laurie - even if they don't feature Maddie and her unique gift.

If you like this book then try:
  • Numbers by Rachel Ward
  • Gifted touch by Melinda Metz
  • Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano
  • Shadowland by Meg Cabot (Jenny Carroll)
  • The naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • When lightning strikes by Meg Cabot (Jenny Carroll)
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann

Reviewed by Brilla

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