For What It's Worth

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

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.

I Am Number Four is the thrilling launch of a series about an exceptional group of teens as they struggle to outrun their past, discover their future—and live a normal life on Earth.


*Note: Guest review by Alex. You can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexConno

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is a Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy which is very good, provided you like the concept.
The story in I am Number Four is rather engaging. I have to admit that I’d seen the film first so I knew generally what would happen. The plot was straightforward, understandable and all that jazz so I don’t have much to say. I kept reading (until 2 in the morning) but I wouldn’t say this is a book ‘you couldn’t put down’; rather, it’s one you’d prefer not to put down.
The romance in this book was, for me, unbelievable- not in the good way. The writers (Pittacus Lore is a figure in the story and the pseudonym of collaborating writers of the series) tried to explain the spontaneity of the relationship by saying the Loric, the alien race our protagonist is a part of, are completely monogamous and so when he falls in love, he does so completely. I think this is poor reason and though I think John cares for Sarah, I don’t believe it’s love. Hopefully, this will become truer in the next book but, for the time being, it’s exhaustively obsessive.
The other issue I had was the way it was written. For most of the story, I felt slightly detached and more like an observer than one involved. And, if I was to put this down to anything, I would say that the story was told to me, rather than shown. If you don’t read writer blogs, you won’t know what I mean so I’ll use and example: Lisa was angry with Luke as opposed to Lisa glared at Luke. It’s a matter of being a little implicit rather than just relaying a story. It wasn’t like this all the way through, but some parts felt particularly told to me so my eyes glossed over a little.
Another thing that bothered me as well was the lack of a strong female character until the last hundred or so pages. Six was adequate when she finally got there but Sarah just seemed like a love-struck fool half the time. She had a backbone, but it liked its vacations. I mean, give me a break (no pun intended).
Onto the good points though, of which there are a few.
The history of Lorien is interesting to read and I like the idea of the planet being a living entity capable of giving powers. The Loric are more advanced than us, giving the writers some creative license, and their way of life is shown to be pleasant and meant endear us to them and want John to succeed. As a bit of an environmentalist, I probably found it interesting more so in the vein that I’d LOVE if I got powers for saving the planet.
The Powers themselves are also believable, as far as powers go. It isn’t like they become some super charged superheroes - they gradually get powers and even then they have to practice to make them stronger. And the powers sap their strength which is many times more believable than inexhaustible reserves of power. I’ve read too many books where our heroes and heroines fling balls of energy around like they mean nothing.
The enemies are also more than match for them. The enemies are a combination of sci-fi and fantasy bad guys with no motive so I like and dislike them. I like that they are strong and scare the characters, but I dislike that their sole motive is annihilation, and that they are so numerous. They’ll do, but I’m hoping some bigger antagonist comes along to give them a better motive.
Despite some qualms, the characters themselves are quite good. I liked John (when he wasn’t being romantic) and Henri’s understandable overbearing-ness. I always think that I would consider American YA differently if I’d went to an American school. They function differently to English schools, or so it seems. Out of interest, could any and all Americans tell me, generically, whether American schools are actually like how books portray them or they sound odd to you too?
So I liked the book and I think if you’re into fantasy (because, despite the Science Fiction-y elements, it’s mostly an urban fantasy) then you’ll enjoy it but not love it. All in all, the story and premise and solid but the execution is lacking. I intend to read the sequel, out this August, so maybe I’ll tell you how that is.

3 out of 4 stars; 3.5 if you’re into fantasy.


  1. I'm reading I Am Number Four now. I agree with you on the romance it's more like puppy love teens and hormones than anything else. The bad guys really do seam to be cookie cutter bad guys. Take a few stereotypes and bam you have the Mogadorians.
    Great review.

  2. Freat review and I agree that this book was okay . Loved Henri more and loved learning the history of their world. Movie was Meh

  3. I liked this novel too, but I wasn't in love with it. I actually liked it more after seeing the movie.

  4. Thank for liking the review!

    @Jessica - I really felt that it was just too flat in many respects. I hope they deepen the story a little bit and introduce motives, but I'm doubtful. I think I'll read them all more out of interest than them being particularly good.

    @Julie - Henri was amazing. Hopefully there'll be flashbacks so he won't have entirely disappeared.

    @Lisa - I saw the film first, and I quite liked it. The film did some things better than the book! You're right though: it's hard to love. But the premise is really good, I believe.

  5. I loved I Am Number Four, but I'm a fantasy type reader. :)

  6. I personally have to ask other Americans what American school is like--I was homeschooled. It's not like anything else!

    Insta-love is rarely well done. I don't care if an alien's whole species falls in insta-love at first sight, I had better see a /process/ in the book.

    Have you heard of the "Full Fathom Five" scandal surrounding this book? It seems that James Frey doesn't pay his stable full of young co-writers very well. Or allow them to claim public credit for their work.

  7. @Alex - as for if this is what American schools are like - I would say no for when I went to high school but that was a long time ago so maybe it has changed.

    I had the book and passed it on in part due to the controversy Tiger mentioned. I may see the movie at some point but I don't think I'll read the book. I skimmed a bit and it just didn't grab me.

    Awesome review Alex!! thank you

  8. Sorry this is a late reply- I went away twice and had little time to read blogs and comments, let alone write one

    @Tiger - I have heard about the scandal and it makes my blood boil that he would give himself the power to do such a thing. I tried to not let that colour my reading too much though. I liked the concept of the book too much. Still, if I could have my way, I wouldn't give James Frey a dime of the book profits. Slave labour is slave labour.

    @Karen - Thanks for that! I'm perpetually asking myself is this real whenever I see american television or whatever. It just annoys me that I don't know and that it's always hard to find out. And you're welcome!