I am Number Four, Pittacus Lore

HarperCollins, 2010, 440 pages

Recently I picked up another YA novel on a whim. I didn’t know anything about I Am Number Four, except that it had been turned into a movie starring Alex “Prettyface” Pettyfer. A good enough reason to start a book? Surprisingly not.

Our human-looking protagonist Number Four (who goes by the very original name of John Smith) is fourth in a line of remaining aliens from planet Lorien, camping out on Earth until it’s safe to go back home. The Mogadorians, another alien race, have also planted themselves on our fine planet, and are taking down Loric folks. The Mogadorians, stupid as they are, have used up the resources of their own planet and are now out to get the last few who stand between them and their claiming ownership of Lorien. Their difficulty lies in a charm that means they can only kill the remaining Loric in a certain order.

Now here are some more things you should know about Number Four. (I will call him John because that’s easier and less embarrassing to keep typing.)

  • As a member of the “Garde”, John has the capacity for special powers, AKA “legacies”. One of the big dilemmas he faces in the beginning of the book is how to deal with his hands, which keep lighting up spontaneously.
  • Because he is a Garde, John also gets his own guardian, or “Cêpan”. Enter “Henri”, a middle-aged looking guy with a heavy Loric accent which sounds curiously French. Hence the name Henri.
  • John and Henri have a dog. His name is Bernie Kosar, which is an insult to the real Bernie Kosar.

Okay! So before I get to the hard truth, let’s start with the things I enjoyed about this book:

  • The title is sort of cool.
  • It’s about aliens! And they don’t have tentacles for faces!
  • There’s one pretty epic moment when John is sitting on a dock with a girl, starts catching on fire, turns to her and says it was nice knowing her, then swims away without any further notice. That’s what I call a memorable exit.

Now for the hard truth: this is a terrible book with terrible writing! To be more specific:

  • The first person narrative often made John come off as an idiot.
  • Because he was an idiot and therefore bad at describing things, the action sequences were rather boring and clunky.
  • The little romance between Sarah and John added nothing to the story. To start off, Sarah isn’t a real person. I mean, yes, I know she’s fiction, but she has absolutely no flaws. (I do have my moral/ethical criticisms regarding her behaviour, but I’ll get to that.) It was also unclear why Sarah seemed to like John – weird new guy at school who occasionally has to wear heavy leather gloves to class? Oooh, total boyfriend material.
  • All in all, an awful commentary on bullying. Let me get this straight: it’s not okay for bullies to put manure in their rivals’ lockers, yet it’s fine, even applauded that they often be verbally and physically abused by their ex-girlfriends? I’m looking at you, Sarah. For one so shiney-happy you may need some instruction on how to communicate like a big girl. Slapping boys upside the head is not cute, and it’s not okay. (Neither is putting poop in someone’s space, but at least this gets acknowledged.)
  •  Even though it was one sentence in the quick history of Lorien, I found it a bit silly that Pittacus Lore be mentioned in “his” own book.
  • It’s worth mentioning that the fictional-sounding author is, in fact, fictional. Actually, it’s a pseudonym used by the authors of this terrible book and the series that comes after it. Apparently the mastermind behind this Twilight-esque franchise is none other than James Frey. Yeah, the same guy who lied that his other work of fiction, A Million Little Pieces, was actually memoir. If you can’t remember the book club scandal I’m talking about, ask Oprah.

This all boils down to one thing: I do not recommend this book. Even though I wanted to know how things wrapped up, I also wanted it to conclude a lot quicker than it did. Since finishing the book, I’ve also put myself through the movie. It was a bajillion times better than the book, which is to say it was passable as mindless entertainment.

Once again, I make my retreat away from science fiction.

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