When by Victoria Laurie | Book Review

whenBlurb: 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?

Thoughts: When was an interesting read because it dealt with many different social issues but it also had an intriguing premise that keeps the reader entertained. Throughout the novel, we see Maddie deal with not only her ‘gift’ but her mother and her hardships, bullying, legal cases, and friendship troubles. All of this puts a great amount of stress on Maddie and Laurie does a wonderful job of portraying that in Maddie’s character.

Bullying is a very apparent topic in Laurie’s writing, and she does a wonderful job of touching on the topic. Maddie is bullied at school because her classmates are scared of her and they don’t know how to deal with it other wise. However, Her teachers end up treating her like a criminal, even though she is innocent until proven guilty. I could really see how Maddie was struggling with this and the writing style was very relatable. Then, she also has to deal with hazing from the FBI just because they have no other leads and all of it adds up to something that no one should have to deal with.

At times, I found the FBI’s motives and strategies too unrealistic. It seems unlikely that they would go through this much effort to try and convict two teenagers of a crime they didn’t commit with no solid evidence. I think the amount of harassment brought the overall story down. Also, if there was less harassment the sudden change of Agent Farraday might’ve been more realistic and believable.

Overall, the story and characters were great to read but they felt fake at times. We only saw Maddie’s emotions and everyone’s personality and emotions we saw through Maddie’s eyes which can cause bias because Maddie is a slight unreliable narrator due to the amount of stress she was under. Although, I did quite enjoy Donny and Maddie’s mom’s character because they were well fleshed out and had a nice background. The story did fall flat at times because it started to feel repetitive; “Maddie is innocent, no one believes her, she has issues at school and then MORE at home! Maddie is bullied by the FBI, ect.”

The writing style was also very simplistic and I didn’t feel challenged by this book at all. It created an almost light-hearted tone when the topics that the novel are dealing with are most certainly not light-hearted. In the end, I did enjoy this quick contomporary read although I most likely won’t be re-reading it.


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