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4 stars

This was a really good read. I demolished it in one sitting, because I literally couldn’t put it down. I also found myself gasping for breath from time to time, but that might have been because I was at an elevation of 8,000 feet near Rawlins, Wyoming, and oxygen was a bit thin.

I do a lot of reading in Wyoming, because internet connection is usually also a bit thin. As is civilization in general.

I am Number Four is the first in the young adult science fiction Lorien Legacies series. Pittacus Lore is a pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes. Yes, the James Frey of A Million Little Pieces notoriety.

The cover sucked me in right away: “Three are dead. I am Number Four.”  Why are three dead? Why are you number four? And who the heck is Pittacus Lore?

I am Number Four

John Smith is a 15-year-old alien refugee from the planet Lorien.  He lives with an adult guardian, Henri, and is one of nine teenagers from Lorien who are scattered across the globe. They are trying to evade the Mogadorians, another alien race that has nearly destroyed their planet and is now pursuing what’s left of the Loriens.

Each teenager has special powers, most of which don’t become apparent until their mid-teens. They are each accompanied by a guardian like Henri. The teens are kinda-sorta protected by a charm that will only allow them to be killed in numeric order. Whenever one dies, all of the others receive a scar on their leg, letting them know how many are left.

Poor Number One. Some protective charm!

During the course of the book, John makes one of many moves in his life, this time to Paradise, Ohio. He just wants to be a regular kid, makes friends and have a girlfriend, but his alien physiology as well as his increasingly spectacular gifts get in the way. And the murderous Mogadorians are never far behind.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the dang near perfect pacing. Even though there was background that needed explanation, and moments of introspection and lower-key drama, I never got bored. And I certainly was never able to put the book down.

I also appreciated the relative simplicity of the way this story unfolded. Maybe it’s because I’ve recently read some really difficult sci-fi, the kind where you’re dropped into the middle of the story and need to read two-thirds of the book before finally figuring out what’s actually going on.

I’m lookin’ at you, China Mieville!

When I first finished this, I was going to give it five stars. But then I did the inevitable comparison to The Hunger Games (I do this a lot when I’m reading YA), and I am Number Four just didn’t quite measure up in terms of character development. And for all of the suspense, it didn’t have quite the intensity and sense of overwhelming dread that The Hunger Games did.

Yes, I like my dread, and I like it overwhelming.

Still, I’m anxious to read the next book in the series: The Power of Six. Unfortunately, it seems that the two writers had a falling-out after completing the second book, and the next several will be ghost-written. Hopefully, this won’t affect the quality.

That James Frey is quite the drama-magnet!

No matter your age, if you have three hours to spare on a rainy afternoon, and don’t mind biting your nails to the quick, I am Number Four is an unquestionably enjoyable read.