Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book (soon-to-be movie) Review: I Am Number Four

Title: I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore
ISBN: 978-0061969553
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi
Theme: Aliens
Binding: Hardcover
Length: 448 pgs
Published: 3 Agust 2010
My Rating:

Synopsis: Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I Am Number Four has to be my favorite novel so far this year. I think the last time I was this excited over a book is when I came across Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles 2 years ago. Many of you may think it's weird that I sometimes start my posts with HOW I discovered a book or movie rather than just focusing on the review itself. However, I think it is important for me to remember these little details because I've noticed a pattern. Most of the time I come across books or movies by accident or sometimes coincidence. When this happens, especially when it is young adult literature, I feel like it's put in my path for a reason. I teach and am around teenagers all the time so maybe I'm supposed to use these books as a way to promote reading. And as Eric Draven says in The Crow, "The little things used to mean so much to Shelley-- I used to think they were kind of trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial." I most definitely agree.

Okay so I was on (Internet Movie Data Base) checking out actor Timothy Olyphant's filmography since I like to keep up on his current projects (another one of my favorite actors!). I noticed that he was playing a character named Henri in the movie I Am Number Four which is in post production. The title of the film intrigued me so I started to do a little research. I soon came to realize that the movie is based on a young adult novel of the same name that was just published in August 2010. What intrigued me even more was the fact that Michael Bay (director of Transformers) and Steven Spielberg are 2 of the producers of the soon-to-be film. After reading the movie blurb and checking out the teaser trailer, I was hooked. I ended up calling Barnes & Noble that day to put the book on hold until I got there.

I finished the book within a week. I had to purposely slow down so that I didn't inhale the novel in one sitting. So why is it so good? Who gives a crap about 9 alien children from the planet Lorien? First of all, the book itself is shrowded in mystery before you even open it. The author says he is Pittacus Lore, a 10,000 year old alien. Hmm what an interesting pseudonym. The story is fresh and original with its own mythology--I'll make a comment about that later.

What I think the author did well and why I think this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers is how it pulls you in. The first 10 chapters or so are short and sweet, ranging from 3 to 4 pages long. This can be very deceptive and I fell into the trap quite easily. I'd read a chapter which would end on a mini cliffhanger and think to myself, eh I will just read the next chapter since it is only a few pages more. Next thing I know it's 1am and I just finished reading 4 more chapters!

When I first started talking to my students about the book, I would bring my copy of I Am Number Four in. I didn't realize I was actually intimidating the reluctant reader! While I had captivated them with the storyline and movie trailer, I intimidated them by waving around this thick 400+ page book! Once I caught on, I tried to reassure them that the first 10-15 chapters are short and addictive. The author has the ability to draw the reader into the story so that it's not only hard to put the book down but by the time you reach towards the end where the chunky chapters are, you're dying to know how it ends. The reader is ready for the big showdown between Number Four and the Mogadorians!

Even though the story is being told in Number Four's perspective, the author does a great job with creating and building on characters that we come to truly care about. One particular character that stuck out through the story was Bernie Koshar. I will say no more and allow you to figure out why for yourselves :)

If I had to find a negative in the story it would be about the showdown at the school. I don't want to give too many details away or ruin the ending but I questioned how realistic the battle scene was. What I mean is, this was not simply a fist fight between Number Four and the enemy. The fight was literally like a battle with alien weapons, etc. My point is, with all the explosions and fire in, around, and near the school, wouldn't the authorities hear or see it? I know that the town is very small, but come on! Someone must hear the noise that is being made!

Back to the mythology of the book. This isn't really a negative thing but the only comment I wish to make is that I want more. Since this is the first book in the series, I am going to assume that the author was just getting started and that he will give us more in future novels.

As I mentioned before, the movie version of this book will be in theaters in Febuary. Even though only a teaser trailer has been released, I have a feeling the movie will follow the book closely since I already recognized several scenes from the clip released.

A Sci-fi thriller mixed in with a little romance, suspense, mythology, teen drama-- I know I am forgetting something. But what more could you ask for?!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recommendation: Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead

I'll be perfectly honest-- other then assigned books that I HAD to read for high school and college, I rarely pick up biographies or autobiographies at a bookstore.

Three to four years ago I never read a young adult novel until the Twilight Saga. Now I am addicted.

A couple of weeks ago I was trying to track down my mom in Barnes & Noble and found her in the biography section. They are her type of books. As I was trying to help her find a couple of books on the Holocaust (crazy right?) I saw this striking book cover with the title Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead. I read the inside flap and I wanted it. But for some reason I put the book back. I went home and for 4 days my brain, one way or another, could not stop thinking about that book. I finally drove back and bought it. In the days that passed and the book became an extension of my hands, I came to learn things about a movement that I suddenly realized I basically knew nothing about and the things I thought I knew were completely wrong.

Several days ago I never read an autobiography on my own free will. Thanks to Frank Meeink, my mind has opened up to a new genre.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead is the story of Frank Meeink's violent childhood filled with abuse and neglect and his descent into America's Nazi underground. The book chronicles his years as a Skinhead in South Philly and his scary rise to leadership of his own group called "Strike Force". He tells us about his years on the streets, his years in prison, his years of trying to turn his life around, and his years of battling drug addiction.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead has taught me many thing, such as the true definition of a Skinhead, how one becomes a Skinhead, the difference between a Skinhead, the KKK, and other white supremacist associations. Frank's words have introduced me to all kinds of new terminology, people, and groups, such as SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice).

Frank's story has taught me the true meaning of the phrase "there is a thin line between love and hate" and most importantly, the power of self-worth and forgiveness.

I wanted this post to be more of a recommendation than a review because I truly feel that reading this book is an experience one should explore and come to terms with on their own. I don't want to sit here and analyze, dissect, or JUDGE. I just want to make people aware that this book exists and despite how I feel about Frank Meeink himself, it needs to be read.

The book is vulgar, raw, and makes no apologies in its brutal honesty and that is why somehow, some way kids need to be exposed to it. Despite the profanity, the violence, and other sometimes offensive comments, Frank's story will not only benefit the ignorant adult but may save the lives of teens going down a very bad path.