first things first: i do not get why this book is doing a lemony snicket and using a within-continuity pseudonym. with A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS it is clear that lemony snicket is telling the story; on the other hand, I AM NUMBER FOUR is being told by number four–not pittacus lore.
that aside, i liked I AM NUMBER FOUR for what it was: something to pass the time. i don’t think it will ever become part of my all-time favorites, but i enjoyed reading it. before we get to that though, here’s a background on the novel:
I AM NUMBER FOUR is the story of number four, an extraterrestrial who has been living, and hiding, in earth for the past ten years. accompanied by his cêpan (guardian), number four must suppress whatever makes him special so he would never stand out. because as soon as he is found, he will be killed.
the conceit of the novel’s title is that there are nine children, all of whom were assigned a number when they escaped their planet lorien. a charm is placed on them, to protect them, wherein they cannot be killed out of order. it’s a way of cheating death without exactly outright making the heroes invincible. at the start of the story, we read through the ordeals of one of the nine, as he is hunted–then killed. then the story begins with number four finding out that number three is dead–and he is next.
the conflict of the story doesn’t come from the murderous aliens come to kill number four though. the conflict arrives when number four realizes that he wants to stop running. that he is tired of blending in with the background, and that he wants a life. when he and his guardian move to a new town, he decides to stand up for himself, he makes a friend, and he falls in love. but with a life always on the run, how can number four protect the life he has built in this new town?
as with most first-person perspectives, I AM NUMBER FOUR is a breeze to read through. that is, until you near the end of the book and skirmishes pop up. for some reason, authors jobie hughes and james frey have a hard time separating action from emotion, and what you get is a hard-to-follow jumble, where your main character is projecting his thoughts in between the action. in my opinion, it’s hard to follow the action when you keep getting emotional breakdowns throughout it.
also, as far as heroes go, number four is a bit of a wuss. which is disconcerting since the whole book is his journey into becoming a hero-of-sorts–complete with sidekick, a love interest, a mentor, and his own bully! and then, in the final chapters of the book, he begins to read like a wuss. and what makes it more disconcerting is how the other characters are telling him how brave he was, and how great he was in battle–but he wasn’t.
or maybe he was–but because his actions keep getting interrupted by his introspection, you never really grasp just how amazing your main character was being.
that is something, i think, the authors should work on in the next book, THE POWER OF SIX. other than that, i think the book is pretty solid. the pace is fast enough that you can’t stop turning the pages, but slow enough that you don’t get lost in the narrative. the characters are relatable, because number four doesn’t begin a victim–he’s already a victim ready to bite back at the start of the novel. and the handful of stupid-mistakes-characters-make are not enough to make you tear your hair out.
so if you’re thinking of buying I AM NUMBER FOUR, go right ahead. but it’s not a must-buy-immediately kind of book.