Author: Pittacus Lore (aka James Frey and Jobie Hughes), 2010.
Genre: YA. Science Fiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 368 pages.
Ten years ago nine children, along with their Guardians, were sent to Earth when their home planet, Lorien, was overrun by the nasty Mogadorians. They all have super powers, known as Legacies, that are due to emerge when they are teens that will enable them to fight the Mogadorians. A powerful charm has been woven about the Nine that means they can only be killed off in order. At the opening of the novel, Number Three is killed and the novel's main character, 15-year old John Smith, realises that as he is Number Four this now means that he is next in line for extermination. Bummer! So, in short a group of very pretty young people are placed in various degrees of mortal danger and lots of things get blown up.
Overall I found the writing style dull and pedantic: recounting actions one after the other as if it were a screenplay. There are echoes of Smallville in the core premise of young superheroes exiled to Earth as well as Roswell (and Roswell High, the YA book series by Melinda Metz that inspired the show). Now, I am a huge fan of Roswell and just felt it was much more interesting and sophisticated in its execution than I Am Number Four. Plus, it was quite funny. The lack of humour is very evident in this novel.
So overall the premise of I Am Number Four just felt derivative. It read more like a tie-in novelization for the recently released movie. OK, I am clearly outside its intended audience and while some YA novels cross over to adult readers, this one didn't for me. Perhaps more so because I have been a Science Fiction enthusiast from an early age. I considered this Sci-Fi-Lite with a planet and inhabitants that just didn't seem at all alien. A severe lack of imagination was in evidence. I am also fairly cynical about the fact that this is already being talked about as a franchise of six novels with accompanying films. I certainly will not be continuing with this series as there is so much better SF out there!
So why did I read it? Well only because it was a reading group selection. I wasn't present at the meeting where it was put forward or I might have pointed out that its co-author is the notorious James Frey. Overall, people in the group found it an OK story but those of us in the group familiar with SF just didn't feel it deserved to be placed in that genre.