I have to admit that the reason I read Pittacus Lore’s I Am Number Four is because I found the previews for the film (which was released in theaters this past Friday 2/18) intriguing. When I found out it was based on a novel, I added it to the list of books to read before I see the movie. I Am Number Four is a science-fiction novel marketed towards young adults but with an appeal that reaches further.
John Smith was one of nine children from the planet Lorien who escaped ten years before when the Mogadorians attacked in pursuit of Lorien’s natural resources, killing all of the people and destroying the planet in the process. A member of the protective Guarde, John and Henri, his Cepan (teacher/legal guardian) are constantly on the run from Mogadorians who followed them to Earth. Because of a protection spell cast as they were leaving, the children can only be killed in their particular numerical order and John is next on the list.
Hiding in a small town in Ohio, John finally begins to develop his legacies, the powers that will make him an effective Guarde in the fight to defeat the Mogadorians and return to Lorien. For the first time he also makes a friend, Sam Goode, an alien conspiracy-theory enthusiast, and a girlfriend, Sarah Hart. When events have Henri starting to look to run again, John has to stand up for himself now that he has a reason to stay and something he’s willing to fight to keep.
There are many different ways to explain a character’s supernatural powers in fantasy or science fiction novels and alien origins isn’t groundbreaking or new, but in I Am Number Four it doesn’t feel like a tired or overused premise. For the most part, the characters are engaging and there is enough tension to keep an adult reader’s attention even through the passages that are clearly meant to appeal to the intended teen-audience. The romance gets repetitive and is completely predictable but nowhere near as annoying or redundant as other successful teen series (Twilight or Fallen, for instance).
The pacing reminds me a little of The Hunger Games Trilogy in the way that when a chapter ends, there is an internal debate over how important what you should be doing really when compared to getting a few more answers, reading one more chapter. The author doesn’t try to cram too much into the novel either. Even though it is meant to set up the Legacies of Lorien series, it didn’t feel like a throw-away novel with the sole purpose of setting up the premise and introducing the characters but is a novel that can stand alone. In fact, the story being told clearly feels bigger than what would fit in one book. It will be interesting to see if the next book in the series, The Power of Six due out at the end of the summer, can take more risks and reach out to more than just the teen audience.