by Victoria Laurie
Review by Gayle Surrette
Disney-Hyperion Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781484700082
Date: 13 January 2015 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Maddie can't remember a time when she didn't see numbers on the foreheads of everyone she meets. Until her father died, no one associated the numbers with death dates. Her uncle wants her to keep her talent a secret. Her mother, who turned to alcohol in her grief, schedules Maddie to do readings to earn the money they need to supplement their income.
Maddie may just be a high school junior, but she's taken on all the tasks of paying the household bills, making sure her mother eats a few meals, cooks, cleans, and basically takes care of her parent. Her readings help pay the bills but she's uncomfortable doing them.
Maddie keeps a journal of the death dates of her clients and the people in her life as a way to deal with what she knows. She's never seen a death date change and has qualms about telling people when they'll die.
Her most recent client came to ask about her daughter, who is very ill, wondering if the child should be subjected to chemo or not. Maddie is usually very careful to only answer what they ask and no more, but she inadvertently says more than she should. The women gets extremely angry and storms out, and next things she knows Maddie has two FBI agents knocking at her door and showing up at her school.
Maddie, with the help of her uncle, a lawyer, manages to avoid being charged with murder but things get very tense. She's trying to solve the crime herself but she's being watched closely by the agents and others. Someone is killing the people she's read for.
This starts out as an okay story using a trope that's pretty ubiquitous lately, but very quickly gives it a few twists and a lot of extra tension, mostly through teenage social pressure, angst, and insecurity. Maddie must find out who is setting her up, keep herself from being taken away from her mother, keep her mother as sober as possible, and manage to do her homework, pass her tests, and keep her grades up.
Being a teenager, Maddie believes she can handle all these problems herself. Add in her fear that she'll lose her mother, and the feeling that her life is crumbling around her, and the constant fear that someone else will die before she can figure things out, plus she doesn't know who to trust, and you've got a page-turner tension-filled novel with bodies piling up and a collection of clues that could point in several different directions at once. The mystery that underlies the entire story is tightly plotted and the characters are believable and engaging even when they are not doing what you, as a reader, want them to do.
Marketed as a young adult novel, When, like the best of YA novels, is a story that would keep any reader no matter what their age on the edge of their seat until the final page.