A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this aliens-on-Earth sci-fi read focuses as much on high school social life as it does on one good teen alien's fight for survival. On the high school front there's some bullying, a fistfight, some drinking, and a house fire started by teen drinkers. When the alien-on-alien action comes to a head there are some intense battle sequences with big monsters, bloody injuries, limbs severed, death, and destruction. As John, or Number Four, begins to develop his superpowers and realizes the importance of them, he has a great mentor in Henri and friends he learns to trust.
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What's the story?
The story of a cute alien finding both love and his superpowers while on the run from not-so-cute aliens -- that's probably the tagline that sold the movie rights. Here are a few more details: John is one of 18 to leave the planet Lorien before the evil Mogadorians completely destroyed it. The survivors made it to Earth and spilt up -- nine kids with nine mentors who must stay on the run from Mogadorians on Earth who want to finish the job. Thanks to a charm, each kid has a number and can only be destroyed in order. Three are dead as Number Four heads to Paradise, Ohio with his mentor Henri, who is waiting for John to develop his superpowers so he can begin to train him. Henri is thrilled when John's hands start to mysteriously glow, but John's training gets in the way of his romance with Sarah and friendship with Sam, who has an odd fascination with aliens already. Then, one of Sam's conspiracy newsletters -- printed only hours away -- mentions the Mogadorians. Are the evil aliens already hot on their trail?
Is it any good?
Though the mish-mash of genres keeps I AM NUMBER FOUR from any real complexity, the various elements seem to blend together quite well. Only at the end, as expected, do readers get the all-out alien slug-fest.
John is a solid, good-hearted character, and his relationship with his mentor Henri is touching. Love interest Sarah seems to lose her depth as the story goes forward -- maybe it's the too-quick acceptance of who John really is that does it. But other teen characters grow in surprising ways. And there are just enough surprises and suspense to propel readers through the series -- and into theaters to see the film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about superpowers. Why do you think stories about superhuman abilities are so popular? What sort of similarities do you see in the protagonists?
If you read the book first, does it make you want to see the movie? If you see the movie first, what drew you to the book? Did Hollywood get it right? What -- if anything -- would you have changed?
For kids who love sci-fi and aliens
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