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Book Review: "I Am Number Four"

By It's My Life on August 13, 2010 4:06 PM | No TrackBacks

If there are forms of life on other planets, what do you think they look like? Little green people? Those big-headed, huge-eyed baldies from old sci-fi movies? Freaky creatures that resemble insects or some kind of seafood?

What if aliens looked a lot like the cute new sophomore guy at your high school?

iamnumberfour.JPGThat's part of the premise of the new book "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore. The main character and narrator, John Smith, is not the cute new sophomore boy in Paradise, Ohio. Well he is, but he's also one of nine children who escaped the planet Lorien ten years ago as it was being invaded by a malicious race of beings from another planet, Mogadore. The Mogadorians know these Loric survivors are in hiding on Earth, and are determined to seek and destroy them. Because of a charm placed on the children before they left their planet, they can only be killed in a certain order. The first three have already been found and are now dead; unfortunately for John, he is Number Four.

John and his fiercely protective guardian, Henri, have been on the run for a decade, never staying in one place for more than a few months, and never being able to "get attached" to anyone or anything. Their survival depends on them blending in and not attracting attention. When John and Henri arrive in Paradise, however, that proves challenging; John is beginning to develop his "Legacies" (supernatural gifts possessed by his kind), finds himself drawn to a beautiful local girl which gets him in trouble with the town's football star, and connects with his first real friend. Meanwhile, the Mogadorians are out there hunting him, and they might be planning to do to Earth what they did to Lorien. Talk about stress!

"I Am Number Four" has a lot of media hype surrounding it, the first of six planned books about the "Lorien Legacies." Pittacus Lore is simply described as "Lorien's ruling Elder" and is just a pen name for the real authors, James Frey and Jobie Hughes. There's a movie version being shot right now for a February 2011 release, co-starring Dianna Agron from "Glee." It's clear that everyone involved with this book is trying to make it the next "Twilight." With a cool website (www.iamnumberfourfans.com) and other promotions, the publishers want young readers to feel like they MUST read this book, because if they don't, they're missing out on something major. So at the very least, we were skeptical as we turned to Page One.

The thing is, "I Am Number Four" is a really, really great read. The premise, along with John's narrative voice, grabs you right away. We found ourselves caring deeply about the planet Lorien and its magical wonders, and heartbroken each time John revisits the day when an entire peaceful, highly evolved population is massacred. The relationship between John and his guardian, Henri, is compelling, and nagging mysteries (Which powers will John develop? What's up with Bernie Kosar, the strange stray dog they take in?) keep you reading. Once the story picks up, there are several can't-put-this-darn-book-down action sequences, and as a reader you feel how high the stakes are. It's a promising beginning to what could be another classic YA book series.

"I Am Number Four" has a few flaws. The writing is not as strong as, say, "The Hunger Games," and tends to drag sometimes. Sarah, the girl John finds himself falling for, doesn't seem all that interesting and we're not sure what he sees in her. The Mogadorians are supremely mean villains, but feel a bit cliche. (Why are all evil aliens tall and pale, with freaky eyes?) Also note: There's a lot of violence in this book, so it may not be appropriate for younger IML'ers.

All in all, over here we are looking forward to the movie and the next installment!

IML's Rating: A-




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