I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Seeing the movie prompted me to want to read the book. There were a lot of complaints that the story was fairly generic, which is true, but that didn’t stop it from being enjoyable nonetheless. The story, in case you’ve missed the movie previews, is about a teenage boy who has been on the run for his entire life with his guardian, Henri, because he is an alien sent to earth to hide from the other aliens who destroyed his people until he is old enough to fight back. The teenager, named John for most of the book, (though we never learn his real name), is one of nine children who managed to escape the slaughter. When they escaped, a spell was placed on the kids so that they could only be killed in a specific order, as long as they are separated. John is Number Four and the evil aliens–the Magadorians–are coming for him now. John and the other children are nearing the age when they begin gaining special abilities that will aid in the fight to retake their home planet. This is the main story. But the subplot is John’s attempt to fit into yet another school where the girl he likes has a jealous ex determined to make John’s life miserable.

Though it is true that there is nothing groundbreaking about this book, it was still relatable and fun. You could sympathize with him on the love story, which may be doomed to failure since (forgetting even the entire alien and danger aspect) John will eventually need to help repopulate his planet, rather than the super-smart children that result from a Lorian-Human pairing. Sarah was sweet and lovable and their relationship was well developed.

The Lorian culture, which is a bit better explained in the book than in the movie, is a little strange. Sometimes it feels like sci-fi, with an evolved alien species, while other times it feels more like fantasy with magic spells to protect the kids and a living planet. In fact, the best comparison I can make is to the movie Avatar (though the Navi seemed more primitive from an outside perspective). I do wish it was grounded in sci-fi and didn’t have the fantasy element, but I suppose that would make the number aspect (which is sort of the premise) unusable.

I don’t love the first person narrative, which I think takes a particular skill to do well. We didn’t get enough of John’s perspective and memories (at least it didn’t feel uniquely John) to warrant the first person point of view. But that style is pretty popular these days (thank you Hunger Games), so I’m not surprised about it either.

Overall, I’m excited for book two, especially as we are about to meet some of the other Lorian kids. (Plus, Number Six was pretty awesome and I’d like to see more of her.)

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