When Review
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Teenagers often feel like outsiders—because they don’t wear the right clothes or listen to the right music or hang out with the right crowd. But the main character in author Victoria Laurie’s teen debut, When, is truly different—and her differences end up getting her into some pretty hot water.

When tells the story of an ordinary girl with an extraordinary gift. For as long as she can remember, Maddie Fynn has been able to see the death dates of those she encounters—just a set of numbers on their foreheads. Unfortunately, she didn’t understand what the numbers meant until it was too late—not until her father was killed in the line of duty when she was young. Since then, her mother has spent her life drowning her sorrows, and Maddie has been forced to do readings for clients in order to support her mother’s alcoholism. And when a client’s son is found murdered on the day that Maddie predicted, Maddie and her best friend, Stubby, come under suspicion.

When is a tense and thoughtful drama about one seriously troubled teen. Admittedly, Maddie’s situation seems a bit far-fetched—especially at first—and when some of the details of her ability change toward the novel’s end, it feels a little too convenient. But it does make for an interesting set-up—and an equally interesting character. Since her father’s death, Maddie’s life has been controlled by her ability. Kids have bullied her, adults have both doubted and feared her, and she’s pretty sure that it’s the reason for her mother’s drinking. At just 16, she’s guilt-stricken and lonely—not to mention surrounded by constant reminders of the mortality of those around her. And now, to make matters even worse, she’s got a couple of FBI agents following her around, making everyone from her classmates to her teachers believe that she’s a murderer. It’s such a sad story—and though Maddie’s situation often makes her stubborn and sullen, you’ll feel sorry for her, and you’ll just want everything to work out for her in the end.

While Maddie’s own situation is the focal point of the story, though, there’s also a mystery playing out in the background. As more kids go missing and are later found murdered, Maddie and her uncle, Donny, struggle to find a way to prove both her innocence and Stubby’s. And if neither one is guilty, it means that the killer is still out there. The case doesn’t get much attention until later in the novel, but it remains a nagging question—and it’ll keep you guessing until the end.

Of course, as is generally the case with any time-related story, When does have its flaws—those little details that just seem a bit off. But the unusual set-up and likable teen character make it a smart and suspenseful read.

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