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Review: I Am Number Four

February 17, 2011

Title: I Am  Number Four
Author: Pittacus Lore (aka, James Frey and Jobie Hughes)
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Page count: 440
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: August 3, 2010

In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now.

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next.–from Goodreads 

After the  news of the James Frey Fiction Factory broke,  I found myself wrestling with my conscience over whether or not to read this book–I was curious to see if it was any good, especially because I knew that the screenplay (shopped around before the book, might I add) had made quite the splash in Hollywood, but I did not want to support overlord Frey or his minions who apparently don’ t know how to read contracts. I held my moral highground for awhile, but when the movie trailers started airing and I heard others talking about how much they enjoyed the book, I finally decided that as long as I did not give my hard-earned money to James Frey and his Fiction  Factory, I could live with myself. So I headed to the library, gritted my teeth, and checked it out.

Although I ended up enjoying the book, it was quite different than what I expected of it–I’d heard all this hype about it being severely compelling and action-filled, but I didn’t find it to be either of those things.

Sure, any story with a main character who is an alien that looks like a human teenager and is being hunted by evil aliens is a bit compelling, but the storyline didn’t really suck me in the way I expected. I think that was mostly due to the fact that three-quarters of the book is character development and set-up. I could feel that there were big events on the horizon and was anxious to get to them, but all I was reading was “John is honing his powers, John needs to blend in, John is making friends, John has a girlfriend, John needs to be more careful”–and that got a little annoying.

Also adding to my lukewarm reaction is the narrative device–Number Four (aka John Smith) is the narrator and the narrative voice is very clinical and completely devoid of personality.  He’s so detached that when he does display his personality through dialogue, I was surprised to find that he is charming and funny. Due to the difference between narrator and character, it almost seemed as if theywere actually different people, and it was hard for me to reconcile the fact that they were indeed the same person.

Anyway, when I finished the book I realized that I had enjoyed it, I just wished it had been shorter–the massive amount of set-up and exposition  could have been cut down by at least 100 pages. However, if you like science fiction and/or stories about attractive superhuman teenagers, then you’ll probably enjoy I Am Number Four. And if nothing else, you’ll enjoy thinking of Alex Pettyfer as Number Four/John Smith while you read.

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