A fantastic find!
Genre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery
No. of pages: 336
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 read this completely off the recommendation from friend and book blogger; it’s not something that would have jumped out at me normally, but was glad I got a chance to experience the writing styles of Veronica Laurie.
‘When’ is a paranormal mystery where our protagonist, Maddie, has the ability to see the dates of when people will die. That in itself was enough for me to pick it up. Such an intriguing premise with great possibility. At first I thought it might be a superhero origin story of sorts, or even a quest-like tale, but it went in a direction I did not expect.
Maddie is quiet, I like my main characters with a bit of sass, or attitude. Even her family possess wilting personality traits that paint a deteriorating picture for her life, let alone the added pressures from hiding her supernatural gift. Thankfully the pacing is superb throughout and we don’t get to dwell too long in her despair before things get interesting.
Maddie’s character does grow and develop, but you don’t realise it until the final chapters, her strength and confidence are brought about through necessity in an understated manner. I found that I really enjoyed this writing style, it was elegant.
The story line – being accused of murder, the discrimination, dealing with the law and policing organisations – had moments where it felt far-fetched, or serendipity, that had me screwing up my top lip. But on the whole ‘When’ was extremely engaging. I was right there along with Maddie in her hatred and frustration over the process of the legal system, and the attitudes of the agents investigating her case. It felt all too realistic. So too, was I fed up with the actions of her mother suffering from alcoholism… I just wanted her to pack her bags and leave all that shiz behind. It did a great service to building tension and setting up a wild ride climax.
Her best friend, Stubby is who really shined for me – even though he was goody-two-shoes and the best friend from childhood, Laurie was not afraid to let him fall. It added such a twist of realism to the story I was totally engrossed and invested in both Maddie and Stubby’s future.
There are so many coloured emotions that popped up for me. Donny, the responsible uncle, the rock in her familial world. Mrs Duncan, the elderly next door neighbour was the heart, and the guy you love to hate, but don’t quite, Agent Farraday. It’s been a very long time since I loved all the cast in a book of this genre, Usually the tropes and stereotypes inch their way in somewhere. Admittedly, there is a bit of that in ‘When,’ but it’s not a dominant aspect to the story.
The main things that detracted from the reading experience for me was around some of the roadblocks our protagonist faced – it was a little too contrite. And I was waiting for some mythology or even some global impact in the light of someone with her ability. Just a paragraph would have satisfied me. But alas, it was completely ignored in favour of the mystery storyline.
I completed the novel in one and a half days – so it’s pretty easy to get sucked into and you’re always left wanting to find out more at the end of each chapter. I won’t say it’s predictable, but I did guess the ending well in advance, though there is plenty of convincing doubt cast in the murder mystery that had me second-guessing for a moment. It’s an interesting little standalone for me, and something I’d recommend because it all ties up nicely and you don’t have to buy into a series.
I was intrigued by the author and her story, and looked at some of her other titles, but will probably leave it at this one. As interesting as her background is, and how well she can craft a story, it looks as though that niggling answer around mythology and repercussions of the gifts and elements she writes about are not addressed in her stories – and that’s something I feel is important to a narrative. A great mystery with a twist – give it a go!
Overall feeling: A diamond in the rough
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