Monday, November 15, 2010

I Am Number Four

Yesterday I picked up I Am Number Four, the new sci fi thriller by Pittacus Lore, whose bio identifies him as a 10,000-year-old alien from the planet Lorien. Lore is, of course, a pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes. I had been hearing a lot about the upcoming movie and wanted to read the book before the movie's release. Michael Bay brought the manuscript to Stephen Spielberg at Dreamworks, who purchased the film rights in June 2009. The book was released August 3, 2010 and the movie is set for a February 18, 2011 release. The film stars Alex Pettyfer (Alex Rider in Stormbreaker and Kyle Kingston in the upcoming Beastly), Timothy Oliphant (Deadwood) and Diana Agron (Glee).

I Am Number Four, which is the first book in the Lorien Legacies series, introduces the story of nine young alien children from the planet Lorien, who escaped with their guardians in a spaceship and came to Earth after their planet was detroyed by the Mogadorians. The Mogadorians followed them to Earth, but not before the Elders put a charm in place that determines that the children can only be killed in numerical order. As the children reach adulthood, they will develop legacies, superpowers that will allow them to stand up to the Mogadorians. They hope to defeat them, save Earth from Mogadorian destruction and return to their home planet.

As the story opens, number three meets his demise, so number four and his guardian are on high alert. They flee Florida and head for Paradise, Ohio where they assume the identities of John Smith and his father Henri. Unfortunately, on his first day of school , John alienates Mark, a football playing bully, whose ex-girlfriend Sarah is friendly to John. To make matters worse, John's legacies begin to surface and his hands begin to glow. Now in addition to his superhuman strength and speed, he is impervious to fire. Although he is supposed to keep a low profile, the bullying gets to him, and he exposes himself by fighting back. In addition to showing his fighting prowess, he allows himself to develop relationships, which he has never done in his previous homes. In addition to being smitten with Sarah, John becomes involved with Sam, a loner who is convinced aliens "walk among us," and a dog named Bernie Kosar, who always seems to have John's back. As the Mogadorians get closer and closer to finding him, John trains with Henri in order to learn to control his powers and encourage the emergence of those that have not yet surfaced. In the climactic battle, number six appears on the scene and they attempt to keep the monsters at bay.

Although I Am Number Four is not great literature, it is great fun. The PR campaign is highly organized. Just as the book was released, hype about the movie hit the internet and a complex website became available at I read all 448 pages in one day, which is testimony to its highly addictive, action packed plot. I'm looking forward to seeing Alex Pettyfrer, Timothy Oliphant and Diana Agron bring these strong likeable characters to the big screen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Perfect Chemistry

Last week I attended a Booklist webinar,"Reaching Reluctant Readers: Using High-Interest Fiction to Engage and Inspire," which was sponsored by Orca Book Publishers. I was intrigued when Amy Cheney, a librarian who was on the YALSA Quick Picks Committee for 2010, said that Perfect Chemistry and its sequel Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles are hot titles for reluctant readers. Beatrice Gerrish, the Monarch High School librarian, had just mentioned that she could not keep up with the demand for these two titles, when I was there to meet with her teen book club. Having read and enjoyed Perfect Chemistry last year, I picked up Rules of Attraction and found it to be a page turner as well. However, I consider these books Chic Lit and found it hard to believe that male reluctant readers were checking them out. Beatrice confirmed that she hasn't seen any guys reading them, but online reviews suggest that the titles will appeal to male and female readers.

In Perfect Chemistry Brittany Ellis, the school's golden girl, and Alex Fuentes, a Latino Bloods gang member, are assigned as chemistry lab partners. Predictably, they clash immediately, but Alex accepts a bet that he can hook up with her, so he begins a flirtation. As they get to know each other, they are suprised to find they have a lot in common, and an undeniable attraction begins to smolder. Complications in their lives find them turning to each other for support and ultimately romance. The story is told from both characters' points of view in alternating chapters, so the reader is aware of their insecurites and yearnings. This steamy romance has some raw language and explicit sexuality that make this a high school read.

The sequel, Rules of Attraction, finds Alex and Brittany attending CU in Boulder, Colorado. When Alex's younger brother Carlos gets into trouble in Mexico, their mother sends him to live with Alex, who finds Carlos more than he can handle. Carlos, who is attending Flatirons High School, is framed for narcotics possession by a fellow student, who works for a drug lord with strong gang ties. Threatened with expulsion, Carlos is sent to live with Alex's mentor, Professor Westford and must attend an after-school program for at-risk teens. Kiara, the professor's nature loving, gear head daughter, finds herself attracted to Carlos, despite his hard headed combative behavior. They bond over a shared interest in fixing up vintage cars and his good natured attentions to her little brother. Unfortunately, the drug lord is lurking in the background, threatening the Westfords, as well as Carlos' family in Mexico, if he doesn't agree to work for him. Once again the story is told in alternating chapters, this time from Carlos and Kiara's points of view, and the romance is fairly explicit.

Although I wouldn't rule these books out for reluctant male readers, I would suggest some alternatives. Will Weaver's Motor Series will appeal to high school readers (see my August 23rd Blog) and Orca Book Publishers has an extensive collection for reluctant readers. Their Orca Currents series is for middle level readers and Orca Soundings is for teen readers. They also have an Orca Sports series, and Rapid Reads is a series for adult readers. The reading levels are between second and fifth grade, and the books are usually around 100 pages long. The plot and sentence structures are straight forward, but the subject matter is suited for the target audience. There are a variety of authors, but I have enjoyed the ones that I have read.