Friday, August 13, 2010

Good News, Books!

First, the good news: you still have about 30 hours to enter the book giveaway here, and all you need is your pirate name.

And a book!

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies)I Am Number Four by "Pittacus Lore" (HarperCollins)
I obtained an advance copy of this recently, and stayed up all night reading it--two nights in a row when I had class and homework due. This book starts with Four. He's changing his name, again, as he and his (effective) watcher hurry away from suspicion. In this Buffy-meets-Roswell-meets-Smallville adventure, a group of super-kids and their minders from another planet escape their home world just ahead of an alien invasion, and now they're growing into their powers here on Earth. The only problem is that alien monsters are out to get them--and no way can humans find out what's going on. Any of the group could be the next to die. If you were a fan of The Hunger Games, or if you have enjoyed recent books in the vein of The Maze Runner, or if you were, say, a fan of the TV shows I compared this to (adding, perhaps, Heroes), you'll probably enjoy this a lot. If you're a visual person, a movie is in the works already, and given the storyline, it promises to be an action film enthusiast's dream.

I do have to give some caveats about this book, because while I was on tenterhooks for the first hundred or so pages, I got pretty distracted by details in the next chunk of the book. I started having questions about how many periods the students had per day, the length of the classes, the size of the high school, and the number of teachers. Hey, I used to be a teacher; I think about these things! I was really scratching my head when the characters get in a truck that hasn't been in use in eight years, but it starts up just fine. The main character and friend roll into a small college town one Thanksgiving night and there are college students all over the place, toting bags into "bookstores, coffeehouses, and bars" (that's something I've never seen on a holiday evening before!). I found the female characters--except for one who comes in at the very end, and who is the reason I'll pick up the next in the series--to be thinly drawn. There was an offhand comment about glow-in-the-dark stars being something you'd find in a tween girl's room, and I've found that those aren't stickers that only one gender likes. The character came to Earth with a big bag of diamonds and sold them all at once to set up a bank account, which strikes me as something that would have caused some suspicion, as compared to selling a few at a time. There was a series of high-stakes scenes toward the end interrupted by a lot of exposition. And I have a handful of other objections that I could detail, but I think I've made my point.

Which leads me into my other point: Sometimes, if the bones of the story are good ones, I'll follow the author into another book in a series, or another standalone book. I actually really, really enjoy seeing that next book come along and I am thrilled when it's as satisfying as I predicted based on a rough-edged first book (especially when we're talking the second book, often categorized as the hardest one to write in an author's career). This book has some good bones in it, and I want to know what will come next.

The flip side is bad bones. There are some deal-breakers for me. I get very annoyed when books in a series don't have self-contained stories. Even if I need to read the whole series to get the idea, I require that individual books have story arcs of their own. I don't like it when characters move around in the plot just because particular things are supposed to happen; I want to think that the plot happened because the characters were making choices all along, that everyone/everything in the book had a hand in making the events and ending happen as it did. And probably most of all, I hate it when readers are underestimated. Give me a twisty plot! Speak in realistic ways, or use language that fits the story! Have reasonable problems and reactions, rather than making a choice that wedges yourself into the next scene! Teen, tween, or two-year-olds, readers know when they're being condescended to, and they're smarter than you think. And research; I can let some things slide because it's fiction, but out-of-place details almost flipped me from happy reader to sad reader here.

So, what are your deal-breakers? Has anyone else read I Am Number Four yet?


  1. I am with you on individual stories in a series needing to stand on their own Too many coincidences that occur in order to aid the story just seem lazy to me as well. One or two a story is ok but if every time your character needs something that something magically appears, it gets rather old.

  2. Absolutely! I was listening to a writer talk about this over the weekend--how a coincidence can be the basis for a good story, but if a coincidence solves things, especially near the end, it's really unsatisfying. It's sort of funny when you think about how often coincidences really do bring about endings in real life, though.

  3. Thanks for the review. I doubt I'll ever read this one (unless I get it from the library... but it's not a priority). From what I've heard, it was written with two purposes in mind: 1) to get it onto the big screen, and 2) to make money for James Frey. So I'm really not surprised at the inconsistencies and contrivances. (The things you mentioned would bug me, too.)

    Have you seen the movie since posting this review?

  4. I haven't. I'm torn between curiosity and not wanting to support what I learned later is a pretty predatory business model, at least as it affects the young writers Frey is collaborating with. Hmph! I hear the movie is better than the book, though.


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