Friday, July 16, 2010

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

When the first ring appears around his ankle, John gets a little scared. When the second appears, he's full-out worried. But when the third appears, his life is at stake.

John is a member of the Garde -- one who develops legacies -- from the planet Lorien. He and eight other Garde from the planet Lorien are the only ones to survive the takeover of their home planet from the rival Mogadorians. The Mogadorians have destroyed their own planet and chose to take over Lorien for their own gain and wipe the native citizens out.

John and the fellow eight survivors have come to Earth, a planet much like theirs, and they have spread themselves out in order to not be found together. The Mogadorians are going to find them on Earth, but the more dispersed they are, perhaps it'll take longer -- especially since they have to be killed in order. And despite their being spread out, they will know when others have been killed by the rings that will appear on their ankles.

I Am Number Four picks up as John discovers the third ring on his ankle. He and his guardian Henri, a fellow Lorien who will not develop legacies (and thus referred to as a Cepan), must abandon their lives on the Florida coast and move somewhere completely new. It'll be Paradise, Ohio, this time, where John will develop relationships with his fellow classmates in ways he never has before. John is finally old enough now to find a girlfriend and to understand how important relationships with people his own age are. However, Henri will warn him repeatedly that this might not be a good idea, since their lives in Paradise are certainly impermanent.

Pittacus Lore is the pseudonym of a pair of writers, James Frey (of A Million Little Pieces fame) and Jobie Hughes. This title was highly buzzed at this year's BEA, and interestingly, it was a late add to the Harper fall catalog. Perhaps that has to do with the fact this was already in film production, with the movie slated to his theaters in early 2011.

I Am Number Four was worth the 440 page roller coaster. This was an incredibly fast paced, action-filled novel that sucked me in immediately and kept me engaged right through to the end. I found John and Henri's planet's history interesting and it was just enough not to bore me with details. I did not get confused about what was happening, nor did I feel like I didn't get enough history to understand why they had to do the things they did. It was a perfect balance of their past with their present situation to keep me going.

I found that John was a completely relatable character, despite being an alien. He had real feelings, and I thought he had real feelings toward his classmates (even Mark, his immediate arch nemesis-turned-good-friend). There's enough thrust here to make what happens at the end -- which I promise is hugely action-paced and kept me reading well past the time I should have stopped -- even more immediate.

The one big issue I had was that Sarah, the only female who makes more than a quick cameo, is a flat and voiceless character. She's got no interests of her own beyond John, and I feel she was a little too quick and flighty in accepting the truths he tells her. I wish she was a but more of a challenge to him in the way a real girl of her social status would be. And to answer the question my husband posed to me while reading, yes, aliens and humans can have relationships, and children they produce are super geniuses (think Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson, etc.). Pittacus Lore thought through this pretty thoroughly.

I Am Number Four will make an excellent movie, and it's one I will definitely see. When I finished this volume, I immediately went to find out when the second book will be released (Spring 2011) since I will continue into this series. This appeals to both genders, and I think it will have special appeal to teen male readers who haven't had anything spectacular thrown at them in series form for a bit now (Alex Rider and Redwall are still hot in my library, but they're not especially new, whereas girls keep getting vampire romances and other series aimed at them). Likewise, there are some greater themes in this book, too, including the importance of keeping one's home planet safe and "green" -- the Mogadorians ruined their planet while the Lorien kept theirs alive through love and thoughtful use of and recycling of good and products. Since both species can share Earth, I think the message is pretty clear we can decide our own planet's destiny.

And don't worry: there are plenty of secrets and magical powers to be revealed throughout. John is in for quite the surprise on more than one occasion. Bonus points on this novel for having virtually no language issues (there is one instance, but that is where one chracter tells another it is not okay to be profane) and the romance that develops between John and Sarah is totally clean. There is some violence, but it's nothing beyond what you'd see on daytime television. We don't even cross into prime time violence here.

You can check out this website for more insight into the book, the movie, and into aliens. I learned Wisconsin is one of the top ten places for UFO sightings...something I might have to spend a little more time investigating, as well.

* Review copy won at BEA.

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