Here is my thought process in choosing this book to review:
I am at the library. I see this book. I think, “Oo! That was made into a movie. It can’t be too bad.”
As a story, it was great. As a book, it was too bad.
Here’s the general premise: A teenaged boy on Earth is actually an alien. He is living with his alien guardian and trying to stay hidden from the big bad other aliens who are out to get him. There were originally 9 good alien children, all numbered, and because of the protective charm cast on them, they must be killed in order. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are dead. Hence the title, this boy is number 4. (Which means he is next to die, ahem).
Always on the run from the big bad aliens, they end up in a small town in Ohio. There he falls in love and makes a friend and his Legacies (or special powers) show up. Blah blah blah the bad aliens find them, everyone almost dies but most of them ride off into the sunset at the end.
So what does this book have going for it? An action-packed plot. That’s what. You may not be able to tell from my lovely description, but the plot is, indeed, action-packed.
To be honest, I had a hard time getting into it at first. The first-person present perspective (I walk into a room. I see a muffin,* for example) seems arbitrary, like it was once written in third person but somebody said, “I think this would be awesome in first person!” so they changed all the “he”s to “I”s and made no other changes. I see no reason for it- I am not given any special insight into the character’s mind, and when I am, the boy is not very insightful. Who wants to read an un-insightful person’s thoughts?
The present tense could be used well for surprises and action, but it results in clumsy foreshadowing (the dog is a what?!) and there is often too much description pre-surprise for it to be truly surprising. (And the next thing I see is so utterly surprising, it surprises me so much. It is blue and loud and special and grand. I think I can hardly stand it when it says… “boo.”*) It’s also hard to gloss over large amounts of time in this voice without making the reader feel like she’s missing out on something. (I am training hard over the next few weeks.* What?!)
Like I said, the plot was interesting. The concept was interesting. The characters were not. Sarah (Sarah Hart- could she possibly be a love interest?!) seemed flat. Much of her always good, sweeter-than-candy, completely unflawed personality was covered by the fact that her dialogue sounded like it was from a bad teen movie. It was so insincere that I didn’t trust her for half the book! I was convinced she was a bad guy until I realized that the bad guys were really tall and had slitted eyeballs.
Sam (Sam Goode- could he possibly be a good guy?!) was more interesting but would disappear for long periods of time, only to be brought back in later with something explaining his absence. Like the author had forgotten about him and had to explain why he was gone. His geek-ness was awesome, but he seemed to lose it over the course of the book- I would have appreciated more geeky insights all the way up to the end. It’s like his character’s journey was to become less interesting.
Spoilers from here on out! (as if there weren’t any before…)
Six could have been better foreshadowed. She is obviously an interesting character (in that kick-butt kind of way) but she seemed to come out of nowhere. Her existence was mentioned, but so was the existence of 8 other Loric children. It would have been cool if, for example, she’d attended his high school for a while and he was unaware, but “there was just something about her…”* You know? That could have built up a really fun tinge of jealousy for her and Sarah while Six was saving everyone’s lives.
The action was great. Although it seemed unnecessarily long at some points, it had me biting my fingernails and turning the pages. I loved seeing his Legacies develop and the only truly surprising twist was when he mentioned talking to the deer at the beginning of the book. What a great turn of events! Another plus: They didn’t kill the dog. Any dog, actually. All of the dogs survived throughout the whole book.
If I were to read another book, it would be to see: What else is in the chest? What is Four’s last Legacy? Why was it special that they were in Paradise? Does he fall for Six harder than he fell for Sarah? And that’s about all.
All in all, 2 out of 5 stars. I can see how it was made into a movie- it has a great plot. It’s just a pity that the writing couldn’t match.
(One last thing- John Smith? Really? I know it’s a fake name, but how am I supposed to admire a hero with NO imagination?!)
*Not actual quotes from the book. Just hyperbole meant to illustrate a point!