Review: "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number FourJohn Smith looks like your average teenager, but he's hiding a deep secret. He's one of nine survivors from the alien world, Lorien, who fled to Earth and who are being hunted down. Thanks to a curse, the nine survivors have to be hunted down and killed in a certain order. If not, they're virtually invulnerable.

Smith (his assumed name for the book) is the fourth in line. The previous three have been killed. John knows this because of a scar on his leg that appears whenever one of the three before him dies. John and his Chepan, Henri, are on the run from their tormentors who can appear as anyone and can appear at any time. Henri spends his time scouring the Internet and the news for any indications the invaders are closing in. John spends him time training to develop his Legacies, powers that come to his planet's people to protect them from alien invasion.

He also attends a local high school and tries to have a normal teenage life. But those two worlds are about to collide in a big way.

If it sounds a lot like the plot for a summer action blockbuster, it's because it soon will be. Before the book hit stores, director Michael Bay had signed on to direct the big-screen version of I Am Number Four.

And while the book  is entertaining at times, there are times when the novel feels like it's just an outline for the screenplay.

John becomes friends with Sam, the local outcast who has an interest in alien invasions and enters into a relationship with Sarah, the cute former cheerleader and ex-girlfriend of the high school's star quarterback. This leads to several conflicts along the way and a twist in the novel's final quarter that is fairly well set up but is a bit too transparent by the mid-point of the novel.

"I Am Number Four" is a narrative driven story, full of twists, turns and danger for John and Henri. And while that keeps the pages turning, the story lacks any really fleshed out or interesting supporting characters for John. Sam is the misunderstood best-friend, Sarah the cute girl that John can't quite believe likes him and Henri is the sworn protector, leaving behind his life and family to look after John. There are some teasing possibilities for the characters to be something more but the novel doesn't delve much into them. Perhaps we'll get more in the sequel (the novel ends on a set-up for book two).

After all, the "Harry Potter" novels started out slow with a lot of heavy-lifting in terms of world-building and universe-creation being done in the first entry before settling down into something richer with later installments. Hopefully the "Lorien Legacies" will do the same.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins (August 3, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0061969559
ISBN-13: 978-0061969553