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Title: I Am Number Four
Year of Publishing: 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author: Pittacus Lore
Unlike most of the previous young adult book reviews published in previous issue of this magazine, in which I have praised various volumes to high heaven and recommended them to a wide spectrum of teenage readers, I am not a die-hard fan of this book and I can't say the review will be exactly positive. It's not that I hated reading it, nor that I loathe any aspect of the story - in fact, the whole reason for a less than positive review is because I have no strong feelings regarding this book. I feel entirely indifferent about it.
I picked up I Am Number Four after coming across the trailer for the film adaption whilst procrastinating on YouTube and deciding I'd give it a go due to the concept sounding interesting and because I rarely read Science Fiction novels. The idea and blurb of the book indeed made it sound very enticing, and a brief summary actually sounds quite good from the outside.
The concept, as said, is fairly interesting, though not exactly unique as far in Science Fiction goes. In the world of I Am Number Four, there are many different planets in many different solar systems in the universe, many hosting different races and civilisations. One of these planets is Lorien, a race of humanoid ‘super-beings’ who are born with various abilities, including weather control and invisibility, these powers known as ‘legacies’. The Loriens gained their powers when their home planet began to die due to the ramifications of global warming and they were miraculously given them to save their world, which they did (don’t ask me how they got the powers, as far as I’m aware it wasn’t mentioned and I have no idea - they just did).
However, the Mogadorians of the neighbouring planet to Lorien, Mogador, were not so clever - or rather, lucky. They continuously hammered their planet, ignoring the fact that they were killing it; and, when it reached a critical state, decided to plunder the nearest planet to them and use stolen resources to keep Mogador afloat. The nearest planet to Mogador, of course, was Lorien, and the Mogadorians attacked the peaceful Loriens viciously, causing the Loriens to send out nine young ones of their own to earth, the next closest planet, as a last hope of restoring Lorien to it’s former glory (or something like that - the purpose was never really explained).
Now the Mogadorians obviously wanted to hunt down these kids (and the adult guardians with them, called Cepan - each of the nine has one) and erase the threat they pose. However - there’s a catch. The Nine Lorien can only be killed in order, from Number One to Number Nine in numerical order. Number Two can’t be killed if Number One’s not dead, and Number Six definitely won’t go if Number Three is yet to kick the bucket. And that brings us to the main story - as the cover ominously states, three are dead - and Number Four is the next on their list.
The story follows the aforementioned Number Four as he and his Cepan, Henri, learn of Number Three’s death, which happens at the start of the book (don’t worry, you know he’s gonna die as soon as the first chapter opens, I’m not giving you spoilers) and are forced to move on from where they have been living a low-key, human life to a new area. So, calling himself ‘John Smith’ (any Whovians around), Four and Henri pack up their bags and move into the town of Paradise, Ohio, where the main plot begins and Four’s life is changed forever. There’s a cute Junior in school who he has an glaringly obvious crush on; a villainous bully who’s instantly out to get him and a boy who seems to be subscribed to an Alien conspiracy theory magazine that’s printed a mysterious article concerning the Mogadorians… oh, and Bernie Kosar, of course, a dog Four randomly adopts who’s by far the best character in the book.
So - I’ve described the concept and plot basis very simply, but that’s because, for the most part, it is. I Am Number Four, although it’s difficult to understand what’s going on in it, at times, is actually a very simple book, especially in the way of the plot. In fact, for someone who’s used to typical, fairly eventful storylines (and here come my opinions now), it’s pretty boring in many areas and is certainly not helped by the writing style employed.
The book is written in the first person point of view, from Four’s perspective (although, as mentioned, Four goes by ‘’John Smith’’ for a majority of the book’s running), and, although the writing style and way the words and chapters are constructed are different, it makes for a poignant but almost boring read. A conflicting description, I know, but what I mean is that, although the style used is different, it’s not actually very interesting after reading about four chapters of it. Although gripping at times and adding tension, the way Four narrates things gets a little grating after a while, as it’s a constant throwing together of short sentences and minimal description, and sometimes tense scenes can even be ruined by the anti-climatic language, rather than working the other way. However, it wasn't all bad, for although I found the method of writing a little boring most of the time, there were some points where the style worked well for tension.
The plot, however, I also very unexciting in places - a lot of the material seemed very trivial, and the storyline was slow moving and even frustrating at times. There just didn't seem much to build on, as not enough of the concept was incorporated into it to make it more eventful - those of who enjoy logical, detailed and fleshed-out Sci-Fi plots, this book isn’t for you. Even I, someone who is used to lack of context in plots and unchallenging storylines in teen fiction, struggled with this, and did not enjoy the lack of information and explanation.
I will admit that I was very picky with this book. I’m someone who really wants to, ideally, really get something out of a reading experience, to come away from a book shipping characters, ranting about how great it is and wanting more. Of course, I’ll put up with varying degrees of this, but it’s books like I Am Number Four which are at the bottom of the negative scale in this area. However, for those among you who don’t share this opinion or anything similar and don’t need a book to be anything big or affect you emotionally, then you’ll probably find this story much more enjoyable than I did, as my major bugbear about it was simply the nothingness of its emotional effect on you. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you can look past it or not, but since I have mixed feelings about this book myself, I’m not going to do my usual ‘recommendation’ and place the decision in your hands.
Lilia Le Fay