I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

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I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A teen read that hits some compelling heights, but is more than a bit muddled and illogical to justify an adult edition alongside it.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 978-0141332475

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Meet John Smith. By all appearances he is the usual fifteen year old American kid, except for the fact he and his 'father' shift location every few months. John is certainly not his real name, but has to face up to reality - school bullies, hot girls and in fact any friends being unattainable with such a peripatetic lifestyle. 'Dad' stays at home, scanning the internet and all news sources, in order to protect the pair - for they are among the remaining dozen or so inhabitants of Lorien, living in hidden exile on Earth, but hunted by their enemies from yet another alien race. Can the fact they are permanently pursued grant them any peace - especially when 'John' is about to undergo some rather prominent alien-style puberty?

This is a surprising book for the publishers to decide to release in two formats - a teen edition, and an adult-styled volume. It certainly reads like a teen book to me, and I have to declare I would spread many a teen title around my adult friends before I recommended this. For the adult there are far too many daft illogicalities to the whole thing. The first person narration by 'John' is very strong, and compels us to the fore of the action, but why on earth is he writing it in the first place, if all aspects of his life are to remain secret on pain of racial extinction?!

You can well ask why the evil alien race have come all this way and seem hellbent on killing off just a few escapees from Lorien, a planet they have left lifeless. The problem they face is a magical charm that has conspired to protect nine children, destined to receive burgeoning superpowers, so that they can only be killed in numerical order - hence the title. 'Dad' is a mentor type, an elder guide and guardian who will only have intelligence to save him - expect he isn't a target at all, for some reason. And I'm still not sure if it has to be a magic sword to kill the Loric kids, or just a humungous troll.

The sci-fi featured here is of the derivative kind, with even the memories of Lorien being giften to 'John' through a crystal - fans of Superman will grimace at the unoriginality. Loric contact with Earth means they have inspired copious geniuses, special growths in human evolution, and probably the pyramids. Yawn.

But beyond a welter of awkward, silly and bland elements, comes the action adventure side of things. The weaving of tension and suspense for 'John' and co with real life is very strong. There is forever the pull to hide away, or carry on moving, and the almost social poverty 'John' faces as a result - especially as an alien, as well - is leaving us with a strong hero, and one different to the usual book along these lines. And however daft the fact of his narrative is, he can convey a slightly gory teen adventure very well. The human sides are very human, the action sides very kinetic and visual.

I still don't know how an optional astronomy course can need classes on three days running, just as I have a lingering frown from a lot of this. It certainly remains a strong concept, of the orderly annihilation 'John' and his counterparts face, and has some strong genre aspects in among its been-there,-seen-that elements. But I don't feel the book lives up to the initial premise, and by the end I was certainly a lot less eager for the rest of the series (this will be a set of SIX by the end of things), and the imminent blockbuster film, than I was when hitting the beginning of this volume.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

One recent teen read that is scarier, and more successful, is Forbidden Game by L J Smith.

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Buy I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore at Amazon.com.


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