Book Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore


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.

So, this is what drew me in. It’s an intriguing premise, maybe not the most unique in the world, a bit of Superman II meets The Fugitive. Overall, it was a good book, but with a few drawbacks.

Number 4, who calls himself John Smith, is an alien from Lorien, a planet which was destroyed by the Mogadorians 10 years ago. At age 6, he was smuggled offworld with his keeper, Henri, and 8 other children like him, all with their own keepers. The children are all destined to develop powers, and humans would perceive them as superheroes. They go to earth to hide from their pursuers, to blend in until their powers (their Legacies) arrive.

As they leave Lorien, a charm is placed upon them which states that they cannot be killed out of order (they are numbered, 1-9). Even if Number 6 is shot in the head before the death of those preceding him, no damage would be done to him. It would rebound upon his attacker. The catch is, they must separate. No two of the children can be in the same place, else the protection is broken. When each is killed (in the proper order) a ring is branded around the survivors’ ankles, letting them know that a predecessor has fallen. John felt the burn as those before him were killed, and he is Number 4.

John and Henri have been on the run for 10 years. They move from place to place, whenever they see anything in the news about abnormal superhuman acts they move. Whenever he is branded again, they move. Finally, they end up in Paradise, OH. John falls in love, fights bullies, and generally plays out the role of Clark in Smallville as his powers slowly develop.

I enjoyed the book. It should be touted as Juvenile Fiction rather than Teen, other than the subject matter and the intermittent cursing (which is sometimes for little reason). Also, it got somewhat irritating with their environmental message, but it was OK. The writing it’s really strong enough, but it’s got potential for the future books, so I won’t write it off completely as of yet. I like the premise, it’s not strong all the way through. It’s often repetitive, particularly with conversations between John and Sarah, his girlfriend. Also, the stupidly overdone and clichéd being-bullied-by-the-jock-just-because-you’re-the-new-kid thing has been beaten to death, and needs to stop. It isn’t new and is getting really irritating.

This may have been exacerbated by the reader, who made the jock/antagonist sound like Napoleon Dynamite. He also made John’s friend, Sam, sound like a stereotypical geek with a perpetually stuffed nose.

All that ranting aside, the end was rather good. It all came to a head nicely with a big, cathartic battle that came with a few twists (some that I saw coming a mile away, and others not so much). It got rather sappy between John and Sarah toward the end as well (really, really not good dialogue), but with a good lead-in to the next books in the series.

It’s being adapted into a film by (you guessed it) Michael Bay! We’ll see how that goes…

I’d give it 3.5 stars, good not great, good potential, but we need some better writing. Worrying about your girlfriend when fiends from another world are trying to kill you and destroy the world doesn’t really work all that well. It’s fun, interesting, and good for boys who like explosions.

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