At least a year ago, and without really knowing what it’s about, I rented the film version of I AM NUMBER FOUR, and while I wasn’t blown away with how amazing it was, I thought the idea of a war that had strict rules about who could be killed and when was really interesting. That’s why I decided to follow-up by reading the book.
It’s fascinating to think about the situation and the psychology of our main character at the beginning of the story. John/Four knows that the three before him are dead, and he has to be killed next. In addition to that, I AM NUMBER FOUR has the feel of a classic comic book because the first half (or possibly three fourths) of the story is about a young man developing god-like powers.
Those are my two favorite things about I AM NUMBER FOUR.
However, despite such great potential, I thought I AM NUMBER FOUR became rather ordinary because of poor execution. John is a relatively flat character, because all we know about him is that he’s an alien who doesn’t want to die and who likes a girl. He’s an archetype rather than a person, and the supporting cast follow-suit.
At the sentence level, the writing for I AM NUMBER FOUR was pretty disappointing as well. There were tons of incomplete sentences, most of which seem to be stylistic and intentional, but a few of them helped me understand why my students (I’m a high school English teacher) write so many fragments.
Examples: “I walk the rest of the way around the house. Overgrown weed and bushes left over from summer,” (230).
“I run for a mile and stop in the big clearing where Sarah and I made snow angels. Our clearing, she had called it. The clearing in which we would have our summer picnics. A pain in my chest at the thought that I won’t be here for summer, a pain so great the I bend over and grit my teeth,” (344-345).
*For both of those examples, I tried not to drop you in the middle of something without context, so I didn’t start with the fragment.
Finally, I’ve got one more, English teacher nitpick… Here’s an example of subject/verb disagreement:
“A mess of crows fly by overhead, squawking noisily,” (288).
Note: a mess flies… it doesn’t fly.
Convention complaints aside, I AM NUMBER FOUR is a decent read that’s engaging most of the time and entertaining. It isn’t going to knock your socks off if you’re much of a reader at all, but that’s why it’s a YA selection.