From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 8–10—10102001. That's Jem's mother's number. Jem saw it whenever she looked into her mother's eyes, but it wasn't until four years after the woman's fatal heroin overdose when Jem was 11 that she realized that the number was the date her mother would die. And it's not just that number that the teen sees—she knows when everyone will die by looking into their eyes. Isolating herself from the rest of humanity seems to be the only solution until Spider, a freakishly tall, twitchy mess of a boy, refuses to leave her alone. In spite of the fact that she knows his death date is only months away, she can't resist his overtures of friendship. One afternoon, while ditching school, they head for the London Eye tourist attraction. When Jem realizes that several people standing in line are fated to die that very day, she panics and takes off. Newspapers and television pick up the story, and Jem and Spider, targeted as the terrorists responsible for destroying the Eye, or at least witnesses, are on the run in a stolen car. Ward's debut novel is gritty, bold, and utterly unique. Jem's isolation and pain, hidden beneath a veneer of toughness, are palpable, and the ending is a real shocker. Teens who read Charles De Lint, Holly Black, and Melvin Burgess will take to this riveting book and eagerly await the upcoming sequel.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
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Fifteen-year-old Jem Marsh has always had an unwelcome gift: when she looks into a person’s eyes, she sees the date of their death. A foster-home child since her drug-addicted mother’s overdose, Jem’s knowledge and experience isolate her from her peers. She surprises herself by building a relationship with another misfit, the tall, geeky Spider. Their interracial romance (Jem is white, Spider is black) leads to a day trip to London, which ends disastrously when Jem realizes that all the tourists at the London Eye Ferris wheel have the same death date: that day. Ward’s first novel is a fast-paced thriller with deep philosophical roots and tremendous empathy for those who don’t fit the mold, not to mention a jaw-dropping ending that stands alone beautifully while whetting readers’ appetites for the sequel. Clear, straightforward prose is the perfect voice for prickly Jem, and Ward’s complex, intriguing characterizations challenge the reader to look beyond appearances. The British setting and tone will intrigue, not deter, U.S. readers. A fascinating premise, creatively explored. Grades 8-12. --Debbie Carton