I recently read Pitticus Lore’s I Am Number Four and shared how much I enjoyed it with my classes. What I read definitely influences what my students read; there’s no mistaking it. They respect, I believe, that I make a substantial investment in young adult literature. However, the response I received from my discussions of Lore’s novel left me slightly disillusioned. Many of my students said they would first see the movie, then, probably read the book. I tried to see the positive side of this – the movie will create mental images struggling readers will utilize when they read the book; the movie will inspire students to check out the printed version. I also had some bizarre thoughts on how soon after a book’s release should a movie be made. This one is awfully close to the publication date. Was the movie plot constructed first? I don’t know, and I’ve had trouble figuring this out.
John, an alien from the planet Lorien biding his time on Earth until his powers reveal themselves, just wants to be a normal teen and avoid the moves to safer locations that have marked his stay on Earth. However, after moving to Ohio, he and his “father,” Henri, discover a sect of Mogadorians who wish to kill him. But John has already made friends, captured the heart of a girl, angered the entire football team, discovered some of his secret powers, and begun to feel like a real teen. He doesn’t want to leave. When the Mogadorians attack, he is faced with two options: run or stay and fight for what he thinks is right. John accepts the responsibility and fights. In the end, John realizes the importance of taking on such responsibility and all off the associated consequences.
True, you must suspend your disbelief to enjoy the book, but isn’t that what science fiction reading is all about? John is a very compelling character you have not choice but to like. He encapsulates the typical teen; he attempts to avoid most responsibility until the call to action is just too strong. John’s avoiding responsibility has nothing to do with laziness and everything to do with feeling like he’s “ready” to face it. This is what I see everyday as a middle school teacher. Sometimes you just have to jump in and see if you can swim. John does, and it makes for a memorable story.