|In Short:||The next hot YA series, and it’s not about vamps and wolves, but aliens!|
|Another new identity, another new school. I’ve lost track of how many there have been over the years. Fifteen? Twenty? Always a small town, a small school, the same routine… sometimes I question our strategy of sticking to small towns, because it’s hard, almost impossible, to go unnoticed. But I know Henri’s rationale: it is impossible for them to go unnoticed as well.|
I Am Number Four immediately sets itself apart from the current YA fiction crowd by presenting itself as non-fiction. Author Pittacus Lore, in the blurb provided helpfully on page one, is a “Lorien elder who was entrusted with the story of the Lorien nine.” Hmmm, intriguing. Googling won’t provide a real name either. The only flaw in this clever marketing ploy is that, apart from the two page preface (the capture and murder of Number Three), the entire book is in first person narrative, inside the head of hero John Smith. Oops. Slight detraction from the notion that an elder is telling the story to the viewer. Our mystery author is no great genius, apparently. [Dude--it's James Frey, that Million Little Pieces guy who pranked Oprah. - Ed.]
Still, though -- I like being inside John Smith’s head. He’s young and vulnerable, and very naïve. Very different from his film counterpart, played with adult-sexiness by Alex Pettyfer. Book John is 15-years old in most normal ways: he hasn’t yet begun driving, he’s never kissed a girl, he gets nervous around his crush, and he needs some level of looking-after by his guardian/father-figure. Movie John, on the other hand, has a smokin’ hot bod, performs aerial stunts on jet skis, and carries himself more like a 19-year old.
The plot: John was one of nine children who were smuggled off the planet Lorien just prior to its destruction at the hands of evil invader aliens called Mogadrians. The nine children have a protection charm that stipulates the only way they can be killed is in order. John is number four, and by Chapter 1, the first three have been hunted down and destroyed. With his guardian Henri, John relocates to smalltown Paradise, Ohio, in an effort to live life in a normal, anonymous way. He attends school, gets on the bad side of the quarterback, makes friends with an alien-loving nerd, and starts dating the prettiest girl in school. He also has magic powers that develop at awkward moments, like his first day at school, which are part of the reason he was saved from Lorien to begin with: the plan is to eventually get the nine (or six) survivors back to Lorien to restart their superior race. I’m sure it won’t be part of the book series, but lets take a moment to imagine just how inbred those first few generations back on Lorien are going to be…
Anyway, the Mogadorian hunters locate John and it’s a battle to the death full of twists and unlikely allies. Fun stuff.
I guess the first thing to address about this book is the speed it was turned into a movie. So fast, in fact, that Book 2 is not even out yet. So we haven’t had the chance to establish the books with a wide following. This suggests one thing to me -- whoever our genius mystery author is, he/she is well connected in Hollywood. Wish I could score an instant movie deal out of the half-finished manuscript tucked away in the back of my mind without waiting for public opinion on how good a franchise it might make.
Enough sour grapes: is I Am Number Four a good book? I’ll say yes -- I couldn’t put it down. Lucky it’s a quick read, just one Saturday afternoon and a little of the Sunday morning for me. It ends, as many YA books these days do, with the opening chapter of the sequel to tease… and in this one instance, that hasn’t worked for me. Because, accustomed as I am to being Generation Instant Gratification, the sequel isn’t out yet and didn’t seem as good as the first, so I’m dying to read it to be proven wrong. Is that weird? I’m hoping to see if I care as much about the next protagonist (Marina, number 7) as I did about John when I was inside his head for 370ish pages. Because so far, Marina is kinda boring. But that’s another book, another review, another day!
In summary: aliens are the new vampires. I am Number Four is a good, fast read with a sympathetic lead who hides nothing from his reader, and makes you want him to win when the going starts to get tough. The potential is there for a rockin’ good series, if it’ll only hurry the hell up and continue!
-- Cathy Thomson