I believe this is a childrens book, since Chickenhouse are a children's publisher, but I didn't realise that when I read it. For the record, I'm not in the target audience for a children's book. :P
It's a book that can cross over from one age group to another and everyone will be able to take something away from it. It's worth pointing out though, that while it's in keeping with the situations and characters in the book and is relevant to the story, there is a bit of colourful language and some adult themes running through this so while it's aimed at a younger audience, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under 12.... I know that some below that age-group will be mature enough to deal with this sort of content, but this is just a head's-up to any other parents who want to check content suitability before buying.
The concept of this story sounded like it had just enough weirdness to keep me interested...a 15 year old girl has the ability to see a person's date of death just by looking them in the eyes. Creepy. She has spent most of her life avoiding people as best she can, so she doesn't have to deal with the knowledge that she possesses. However, she is drawn to another loner and a bittersweet friendship evolves, and that's where the story really starts.
It's set in inner city London and although a lot of it is very dark in places and populated by some unsavoury characters, there's a sweetness about it too.
Two streetwise young teens with disadvantaged backgrounds, thrown into difficult circumstances and yet they seem to both have an innocence about them that's quite touching. It's difficult to explain. They seem to be very young and yet very mature at the same time.
As the book progresses it throws up a lot of questions for lead character (Jem), which leads the reader to ponder those same questions. One of the questions I'm still left with is along the lines of 'which came first? The chicken or the egg?' Just by the fact that Jem saw the dates, did that mean they were destined to happen? Can she change things? If she didn't see them, would they still come to pass? If she saw the date and knew it was coming, did she then lay in place the chain of events that would cause the action?
She has the same thoughts and it's mindbending for the reader to get to grips with that puzzle so for Jem it must be torture.
I think that's the whole point to the story - it's torture for her and she's making do the best way she knows how, with what she's got.
The ending gave me chills and I'm glad to note that there is a follow on book which picks up where this one left off. I can't wait to read it as it sounds every bit as good as Numbers, if not better.