Monday, September 13, 2010

I Am Number Four

Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four, the first book in the Lorien Legacies, is written by Pittacus Lore, which is a pseudonym for James Frey (author of the controversial biography Million Little Pieces) and Jobie Hughes.  The story follows John, an alien who has been trying to blend in to human society in an effort to hide from alien pursuers.  He has a father figure, Henri, who helps him keep one step ahead of the bad guys.  It's really a neat premise, as a charm was put on nine children from Lorien who escaped, so that the evil aliens (Mogadorians) would be forced to kill them in order.  So if they found number six, they couldn't kill him or her before number five.  Each time the Mogadorians kill one of them, a scar appears on the surviving aliens, letting them know that the next kid is on the chopping block.  John is Number Four, so the moving around that he's been doing all his life is a little more intense this time around, as the third scar has shown up on his ankle, letting him know that it's his turn to be hunted.  A teenager now, powers (called Legacies) begin to emerge in John, giving him the ability to defend himself, but it takes a while for these powers to manifest, and even harder to learn to control.  And with death so near, John moves to Ohio with Henri and begins a new life again.  Unfortunately for him, this time he grows quite attached to the people he meets, and as the stakes get higher and higher, he doesn't want to leave the new life he's built for himself, despite the dangers.

It's not too hard to see the appeal of this book.  And it's refreshing to see a male protagonist in a young adult book, especially one with such a great action premise that's sure to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.  The authors find a nice balance between the action and the quieter character moments, as John surrounds himself with some pretty amazing friends who go to great lengths to keep him safe.  The biggest thrill of the book is that constant danger of discovery.  He must hide who he is from the press, in case the Mogadorians should get wind of it, but also from his new friends.  He must lie about his past and hide his powers as they grow more noticeable.  Of course, every teenager feels like they don't fit in, and Lore taps into that pretty effortlessly.  The best relationship, however, is between John and Henri.  It's protective and frustrating and satisfying - in other words, very real.  Perhaps the most organic of friendships of any other in this book.

I find that the prose of this book is pretty straight-forward, and is easily accessible to a pre-teen audience.  The only thing that seems to push this into the teen category at all is the age of the characters.  One thing that really bugged me throughout the book was one of the big "reveals" at the end of the book.  The authors beat the audience over the head with something all the way throughout the book, hardly bothering to hide what it was at all.  I found it kind of insulting.  For those who've read this book, I think you know exactly what that secret is.  Despite its flaws, this is a great, fast-paced read.  I can hardly complain much about a book that I read in a few days because it was hard to set aside.

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