I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Plot Summary: A boy from the now destroyed planet Lorien is the fourth of nine remaining Loriens. Number three was just killed and John Smith is number four, the next in line to be hunted down. He and his uncle must help him develop his Legacies (superpowers) to fend off the evil Mogadorians, who exiled the Loriens from their planet in the first place. Now John Smith must try to live a normal teenager's life with cute girls, bullies, ever-developing powers, and the feeling he's constantly being watched.
Critical Evaluation: I found this to be a good fast-paced science fiction book. The authors do a good job of balancing action and everyday life. Surprisingly, John Smith's everyday boring high school life can be just as interesting than some of the later action scenes. The love interest and his nerdy friend from whom he must keep his secrets make for a charming trio to follow through the story.
Unfortunately, I am Number Four falls into the tendency many YA authors have to refuse to tell a story in just one book. Although this book covers one story arc and ends somewhat satisfyingly, it is only the first in a series of what is to be many. I'd be happy to read a single satisfying YA work without having to read five more to get the whole mythology of the story. Another annoyance is the length and pacing of the book. More happens in the last fifty pages than had happened in the two hundred before. Spending less time following John Smith through his boring Legacy training and love interests and more time on the battle scenes would have made more sense. But alas, perhaps these battle scenes are being saved for future books.
Reader's Annotation: Three are dead. John Smith is number four and must develop his powers to keep the Mogadorians from ending his teenage life prematurely.
Author Information: Behind the pseudonym are James Frey and Jobie Hughes. James Frey is the author of Bright Shiny Morning and the controversial A Million Little Pieces, a work of fiction that was first said to be factual. Frey publishes under as many as nine reported pseudonyms, so information on him is scarce.
Jobie Hughes is relatively new on the writing scene, his first standalone novel was Agony at Dawn. A New York native, he does much of his writing in the privacy of home, though he used to prefer the busyness of local coffee shops. He describes his writing tendency is to write 1000 words every day, whether good or bad.
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Curriculum ties: N/A
Booktalking ideas: How does John Smith's transition into a fully fledged Lorien with Legacy powers mirror the transition of teenager into adult?
The Loriens are being hunted by the Mogadorians and humans and friends of John Smith are helping them survive. Why should humans care about a diminishing number of aliens from a planet they've never heard of?
Reading level/interest age: 9th to 12th grade
Challenge issues: N/A
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.
Why I included this title: I heard this book was being turned into a film which piqued my interest in it. I'm also a fan of science fiction and I'm always finding new and popular series to recommend to teens at my library. I think they would enjoy both that it is soon to be well-known due to the film and the fact that it is an entertaining read.