Ken's Reviews > I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
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's review
Jul 15, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: finished-in-2010, ya
Read on July 12, 2010

I AM NUMBER FOUR is actually number four million if you consider the predecessors it is based upon. Meaning? We've been here before. About a bazillion times.

Let's take stock: aliens on Earth disguised as Earthlings. In fact, your neighbor may be a Lorien (the "good guy" planet of concern here) and the haberdasher (way to blend in!) may be a Mogadarian (the "bad guy" aliens who are hunting Lorien-types to the death). Novel idea, eh?

So our protagonist is on his 5,398th alias. It's (steady now) "John Smith" ("John Doe" must have been taken). He is what's called a "Garde" and will get special powers when he hits puberty (I got a cheap Timex). These powers are called "Legacies." Special powers are quite the thing in fantasy YA these days. They go by different names, they borrow shamelessly from Marvel Comics, and they're viral.

Speaking of viral, at 440 pages and at Gate #1 of a projected 6, this book is both too long and too predictable to be extended into a series. Do we blame Harry Potter for this pernicious YA fad? The conceit, you see, is that Mogadarians can only kill the Lorien-types in order. Conveniently enough, Numbers 1, 2, and 3 have been killed before chapter the first. This means (gasp) hold on to your seats action from the get-go as John Smith and his protector (called "Cepans" here) move to a small Ohio town to blend in.

Blending in defined: fall in love with a gorgeous (surprise!) girl named Sarah. Draw the attention and ire of a (surprise!) bully named Mark who happens to also be the captain (surprise!) of the football (surprise!) team and Sarah's ex-boyfriend (surprise!). Get in a fight with Mark and accidentally display your super powers which are supposed to be kept under wraps for fear of attracting Mogadarian attention (remember, one of them could be the janitor, the principal, or even the candlestick maker!).

That's the sort of goings-on you'll get in this book. Characterization? You might as well hunt polar bear in the Everglades. Description and mood? Try finding fine china at Walmart. But oddly, the book will be a big hit with many young readers (especially of the "reluctant" variety) because it's all about plot. Period.

As is often the case with genre reads in YA, I'm torn here. The book's style is choppy and the author's ability to write action scenes filled with inconsistencies and gaps. It's predictable. It's one-dimensional. But it is what it is, and I know a lot of kids will be snapping it up in my classroom this fall -- and liking it, too. Does that mean they have bad taste? Not at all. It means they like action. It means they like plot. It means they are Pittacus Lore's target audience and I should be sure to get this book in their hands.
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Reading Progress

07/14 page 186
02/21 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 new)

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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny This sounds like Willian Tenn's Lisbon Cubed meets Robert Sheckley's The Tenth Victim, except that both of those were moderately good. Sigh.

message 2: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken Manny: If I were well-read in fantasy and sci-fi, I could probably find a million parallels, but I'm not. I know that James Patterson has a YA series out about angels (or winged teens, anyway), each with a special power just like the Loriens in this book who each have unique "Legacies."

It seems like everyone in the YA hood is writing variations of the old-school Fantastic Four. Fire! Strength! Invisibility! Storm-Maker! Etc., etc.

message 3: by Manny (new)

Manny It seems like everyone in the YA hood is writing variations of the old-school Fantastic Four. Fire! Strength! Invisibility! Storm-Maker! Etc., etc.

Sometimes I worry that people will turn this YA junk into some kind of religion. You know, you'd have a god with storm powers, and one who could control the waves, and some goddess of sex and love and... well... I don't know. I haven't figured out all the details. Do you think anyone would like it?

message 4: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken Follow the money. That's all the editors do.

message 5: by Ellen (new)

Ellen So are you going to rate this book? One star? Come on, I know it pains you (you were too generous with The Passage, but you can do it :).

message 6: by Princessjay (last edited Jul 15, 2010 07:42AM) (new) - added it

Princessjay alas, this WAS on my to-read list... and now that i've read your review, it's getting moved to dont-read-ever ;D

"predictable" really seems to be the name of the game these days with certain genre novels (especially YA which is undergoing some kind of a renaissance). yet despite their flaws, they are paradoxically so beloved as to garner amazing numbers of 5-star gushes...

this makes finding decent books to read kinda hard ;) thanks for the head-up!

message 7: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken Ellen, I think I'm going to go starless for a bit and people can read the reviews (or not). I know that this book will be snapped up by my 8th graders this fall and that many will, as Princessjay so aptly puts it, rate it in 5-star gushes.

This is where I'm torn. I am not the target audience. They are. Reluctant teen readers would give it a 5, average teen readers a 4. But even by YA writing standards, this book is a bit below the mark. Yes, I turned pages, too, to find out what happens, but I wasn't in the least emotionally invested in the protagonist. Not good, eh?

You're welcome, Princessjay. Thanks for your kind comments!

message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Newengland wrote: "Ellen, I think I'm going to go starless for a bit and people can read the reviews (or not). I know that this book will be snapped up by my 8th graders this fall and that many will, as Princessjay ..."

Cheers, oh starless one. I agree with you; we--or at least I--often review books based on our own tastes, when we're not the target audience. Not sure what do about this, though, since we're pretty much stuck with ourselves, biased warts and all.

message 9: by Clickety (new)

Clickety If books were ONLY reviewed by their target audiences, we'd see way more 4 and 5 star reviews, especially among books geared at younger reviewers, who have less to compare them to.

Somebody has to stop the madness! ;D

message 10: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Thanks for your review, I'll not be reading this one now. The James Patterson "Daniel X" book was enough to make me gag. I read a ton of SF & Fantasy, and even read quite a bit of YA, so I don't particularly want to waste my time on a poorly written book like this. I don't mind tropes, I do want some original thought, not the standardized template.

I recently read a YA trilogy that was quite decent and might appeal to those reluctant-reader-males (although fortunately I don't know any = ). If you can guide them towards these, I think they will appeal:
The Warrior Heir,
The Wizard Heir,
The Dragon Heir.

Oh, and as for ratings, I think it's perfectly valid to rate a YA book with how you personally liked it, even if you're not the 'target audience'. Well-written YA books, with great characters in a well-realized world do well with all ages - witness the huge popularity of The Hunger Games, and of course HP. = )

message 11: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken Thanks, Carolyn, for your input. I have THE WARRIOR HEIR in my classroom library. I'll go out and get the following two to complete the set!

Viola Hey...I am on my lunch at school, so I don't have a lot of time. I just wanted to comment quickly.

First of all, the Warrior Heir trilogy is great. I highly recommend that one.

Second of all, I just finished I am Number Four, and I agree with this review. The sad thing is, I do like the plot very much, and I'm intriqued by the twists that make this series different than Roswell High or others with aliens.

That said, the writing is very poor. Characterization is bla. Sentences are choppy and feel very elementary. The dialogue, particularly between John and Sarah, feels fake with no authenticity.

I do like the bits of originality in the premise, and I do, despite the choppy narrative, like Number Four. I also liked the relationship between Henri and Four/John; that had moments that carried depth and emotion.

Mostly, I wish this was executed better because it could have been great. I do think it will translate well on screen, and I'm actually excited about the film. I am looking forward to finding out what happens next because the story is good; it's just not told well. :(

Also, I do teach 8th grade LA, and I do see many of my students loving this in their future. I'm fine with that, as long as I can direct them to some better writing as well.

message 13: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken Thanks for the affirmation, Viola. We pretty much agree on this baby. What threw me was that your school was already in session -- and in New Jersey! I thought early August starts were strictly for the South (and Joisey ain't the South, last I checked).

Bronny Exactly

Brittany (Nice Girls Read Books) I agree with you and Viola, and basically everyone else that has commented here. I was expecting a LOT more since this book was picked up and made into a film before it was even PUBLISHED!

I thought 'wow, it must be exceptional'... I first gave it three stars, then decided even that was too generous.

message 16: by Jern (new) - rated it 1 star

Jern I gave it one star, and I am a teenager for God's sake. The book was way overrated; I regret buying it now and wasting a couple of hours of my life on it.

Merrin You know, I don't know that your students will want to read it, because it isn't kid friendly at all. It's too dense, it glides over the emotionally packed scenes that make Twilight so compelling, and it isn't as fun as Harry Potter. So I think you're safe from having to put this tripe in their hands come the fall.

Stray thank you for writing all the bad things I have to say about the book.

How old are the kids you teach?? I'm a teen and I thought this was quite mediocre

Stray Newengland wrote: " I know that James Patterson has a YA series out about angels (or winged teens, anyway)"

finally someone who noticed it too!!

Wicked ♥  (Wickedly Bookish Reviews) aka Bat-Jess I decided to read this because the movie is coming out, but I'm kinda worried about wasting my time reading it now that I've read your review. I read a high volume of books every year and I don't know if I should waste my time on this one. The first few chapters have been short, and uneventful besides the moving around. The main character is bland to say the least. I really love YA fiction too, but it seems to be going downhill as the years go by. I think the best thing I have read out of the YA genre has been the Hunger Games trilogy and even that kind of wound down to a dull roar at the end. So sad.

Kristina Geez. People are getting pickier and pickier every fricking day! Shall I dare call them nit-pickers? *gasp!* Oh no she didn't! Oh yes I did!

Jessica "It means they are Pittacus Lore's target audience and I should be sure to get this book in their brilliant, luminous, sparkly, glowing hands." What a boring superpower. Out of all the powers 4 could have, Lumen? LUMEN?!

message 23: by Mrs. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mrs. O' Leary I agree, the first book is a lot cliche, and I hated that about it. But I overall enjoyed it, and then went on (several months later) to begin book two, which is honestly much better. The series becomes much more fast paced, with a lot less hiding and a lot more fighting. More characters and bigger plots lines are both added. The first book isn't the best, true, but the series is a page turner. I read books two and three within a day and a half, and I'm excited to get book four.
- AllonsyStarrySwiftie

message 24: by Emma (last edited Dec 02, 2015 03:37PM) (new)

Emma This person has OBVIOUSLY not read the books. John is number four of the Garde that are LEFT and living on earth. Duh, and you obviously only watched the movie (which is horrendous and super crappy) and assumed that the books are as terrible as those movies.

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