Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.
Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing.
But they know.
They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.
I am Number Four.
I am next.
Thoughts: I’d heard nothing but good things about this book, and so I was really happy when I got the chance to read it for myself. And I’m quite happy to say that the book lived up to its hype quite well.
I’m usually a bit leery of books written in the first person, because there are so many things that can go wrong. Too little detail being given for the story to make sense, too much info given that the character wouldn’t have, the urge to wax poetic about things like scenery and personal appearance even when the character wouldn’t. But once I got into the story, it was easy to see why this was done. When you’re dealing with characters that give false names, who otherwise only have number designations, writing from their perspective seems like the best way to do things to avoid having to overuse the designation or potentially confuse the reader if a name changes.
The story was smoothly written, fast-paced and action-packed, and the development of the characters was good and believable. I have to confess to some rather sickly-sweet smiles I gave in regards to “John”‘s relationship with Sarah. Young love at its finest, close without being overtly sexual, sweet and innocent without being sanitized and cold, and important without being dangerously consuming. A very fine balance, and one that I think could stand a greater place in YA novels today. (I’m not the only one who’s tired of the obsessive love trope that Twilight popularized.)
I only have two complaints to really make about this story, one minor and one major. The minor one is the statement made early on that people from Lorien interacted with humans and aided them, giving them language, which is why their languages are so similar. If you know anything about world languages, this is pretty much an impossible thing to claim. Linguists have yet to figure out if there actually was only a single root language for all the world’s languages both past and present, and it’s one hell of a stretch to expect people to believe that the Loric either spoke English and influenced things on earth to the point where English would be such a dominant language, or that every single language here diverged in the very same ways that it did on Lorien, and around the same time, in spite of radically different cultures. Er, sorry, but no. Frequent interaction between two groups doesn’t mean that their languages will be identical, or even similar, in the end. Things happen, dialects emerge and converge and disappear, migration patterns change, splinter groups form….
I know this is a YA novel and most teenagers won’t catch that, but it’s still something that ought to have been given more thought in what was otherwise a pretty well thought out book.
My major beef is the “always chaotic-evil” presentation of the Mogadorians. An entire race of people have ruined their planet, then all act with one motive to ruin another planet, and then have such a mindless pursuit of resources that they’ll travel to yet another planet to attempt to kill some children? Who are technically not really much of a threat if they want to overwhelm humanity to take Earth for themselves. 9 kids and their guardians versus an entire race of people who have already overtaxed and wiped out two planets? Seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through.
But it gives us an enemy, and one we’re not supposed to be able to sympathize with, which was the point. Not sure how the Mogadorians didn’t wipe themselves out eons ago, though, if their race is that mindlessly destructive.
But aside from a few oversimplifications, this was a highly enjoyable book, one that I wouldn’t mind recommending to sci-fi and YA fans. It conveys a clear environmental message without being heavy-handed about it, it evokes emotions that make you feel as though you’re right alongside “John” as he goes through hell and happiness. I Am Number Four is a story that sucks the reader in and won’t let them go until the very end.