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Monday, August 2, 2010

'I Am Number Four' by Pittacus LORE

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

John Smith is not your average teenager.

He regularly moves from small town to small town. He changes his name and identity. He does not put down roots. He cannot tell anyone who or what he really is. If he stops moving those who hunt him will find and kill him.

But you can't run forever.

So when he stops in Paradise, Ohio, John decides to try and settle down. To fit in. And for the first time he makes some real friends. People he cares about – and who care about him. Never in John's short life has there been space for friendship, or even love.

But it's just a matter of time before John's secret is revealed.

He was once one of nine. Three of them have been killed.

John is Number Four. He knows that he is next . . .

Nine alien children have fled their home planet for earth. Each child has an adult ‘guardian’ who will protect them against an alien race who seeks to hunt them down and destroy the last traces of Lorien. The Mogadore will stop at nothing to kill these children, the last of their line. Children one, two and three have been killed. ‘Number Four’ is a boy who calls himself John Smith, he has just moved to Ohio with his guardian, Henri. It is here that John experiences his first crush on a human girl named Sarah. He also deals with high-school bullies, and befriends a scifi-enthusiast. But amidst John’s snatches of normalcy, the Mogadore loom, and John cannot forget that he is next...

Pittacus Lore is actually the pseudonym of James Frey and Jobie Hughes. James Frey famously wrote the memoir ‘A Million Little Pieces’ which was an Oprah book club best-seller, until it was discovered that large chunks of the ‘memoir’ were fictitious.

‘I Am Number Four’ reminded me a lot of ‘Roswell’ – the old WB teen series which ran from 1999-2001. Purely for the fact that both are stories about teen aliens who ‘live amongst us’, having been forced to flee their home planets imminent destruction.
“I don’t think they’re interested in Earth’s resources,” Henri says.
I sigh and look up at him. “Why not?”
“Mogadore is still dying. Even though they’ve patched the more pressing matters, the planet’s death is inevitable, and they know it. I think they’re planning to kill the humans. I think they want to make Earth their permanent home.”
‘I Am Number Four’ is a fast-paced thrill ride and the antithesis to every YA novel out at the moment. The YA genre has gone through more trends in recent years than researches can keep up with. Everything from vampires to angels, fairies to werewolves. Young Adult books are hot commodities if publisher’s can get ahead of trends and dictate the ‘next big thing’. Well, it looks like the tail-end of 2010/2011 will see ‘aliens’ in book vogue... thanks in large part to the hype surrounding ‘I Am Number Four’.

The book has already been snatched up by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay for a BIG 2011 release. Filming is underway with teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer in the lead, opposite ‘Glee’s’ Dianna Agron. The book hasn’t even been released yet, and the movie is being filmed!

The thing is... the book isn’t actually ‘good’....

It’s a great story idea. But in the hands of ‘Pittacus Lore’ (Frey/Hughes) the story dies on the page. Lore’s writing is so mechanical and cold that when reading it you do hear a monotonic narrator. Lore prefers summary over scene – there are huge chunks of paragraph and countless pages in which Lore decides to tell, not show. He’ll do it for big action scenes, but even smaller scenes that require nuance and detail (like John listening to Sarah recount her past relationship while they work together in home economics) he summarises in clipped, cold summarizing sentences.

The story is fast-paced and the basic concept is high-thrills. But any redeeming action features are completely lost amidst the writing and voice. If the narration has any sort of ‘rhythm’ it’s to the sync of a metronome; just a constant ticking along, which sucks any flavour from the words. The action scenes are also occasionally interrupted by faltering, irrelevant details;
He doesn’t bother with the door or a window, he literally runs through the wall, which breaks apart as if it’s paper, though it is made of strong, hard, African mahogany.
I don’t know how much patience teenagers will have when the writing is so bland, stilting the action.

The one thing I can say for ‘I Am Number Four’ is that it is a book of great concept. The catchy tagline is perhaps the most impressive thing about the novel; ‘We were nine, three are dead, I am number four’. Those 10 words sent more shivers down my spine than anything else in the book.

‘I Am Number Four’ is a steamroller. The publicity has been superb and dependant on underground whisperings, as well as an impressive website and big movie backers. This book will succeed, that much is obvious. Whether or not the book *deserves* all the hype is another matter entirely... and will probably be a footnote to the upcoming success.

I would count Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine, John Marsden and Kelley Armstrong among the best of the YA genre. Their books are action-packed spine-tinglers and divine YA reads. Pittacus Lore pales in comparison. I think the storyline of 'I Am Number Four' could have quite easily come alive under another writer's pen, but with Pittacus Lore any worthwhile story suffocates under the strain of stilted prose.



  1. hmmmm I had not heard of this book... will probably not run and get it when it comes out...

    The movie might be great though!

    Great review hon =D

  2. Larissa - I actually think that where this was a bad book, it could be a great movie. The ideas are great, it's just the narrative... so it might be better suited for the big screen? I will definitely see it when it comes out.

  3. I think you're right - better movie than book. I've heard a bunch about this one, rumors about who the real author is. The concept is intriguing too bad it didn't live up to the hype.

  4. Agree with you on all points. Such a shame.

  5. Completely disagree! Have just finished it, and I thought it was a good read(perhaps not great). Some pure escapist fun to kill some time. I found it enjoyable and I think it will make a fun movie too.


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