Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Am Number Four & Ingo

It might be because of all my writing motivation and my renewed love for the young adult fiction genre. I've been reading it like crazy lately. This week I finished Ingo by Helen Dumore and I Am Number Four by 'Pitticus Lore' (*cough* James Frey).
Ingo came to my attention a couple of years ago, when lots of girls around the age of 11 kept coming into the store asking after the series. Ingo is the first in the series, a rather clever little piece of work about a girl whose name is unfortunately Sapphire. She and her brother are convinced that their missing father isn't dead and is instead in the underwater land that humans can't reach without drowning, Ingo. Sapphire finds herself increasingly drawn to this place, and to the Mer that inhabit it. It really isn't half bad, though a little meandering at times. The way Sapphire is called by the sea is particularly vivid. Dumore definitely captures that playfulness, the search for adventure and magic. There are three more books. I'm curious to see how repetitive it's going to get.

I am Number Four. I was expecting this to be as painful as Gone by Michael Grant, but the two writers who put this book together are not so sloppy. It's the story of Four/John Smith and Henri, his guardian. They are from the planet Lorien, which was invaded when John was a child. Eight more children and guardians escaped to earth, a magic bond created by a Lorien guardian to make sure they can only be killed in a certain order (hence the number in the title). John is next. The Loric kiddies are waiting to develop their powers or 'Legacies', while evading detection by the alien race that invaded their planet. This race wants them dead, and may indeed be planning to invade earth as well. One day, the nine of them intend to fight back and regain their home planet.

It's certainly colour-by-numbers teen fiction, make no mistake. This is book onc in what will surely become a profitable franchise. You've got all the boxes ticked here. Obligatory love interest that isn't at all interesting and not quite believable, all the plot points adding up to a big finale. Some wooden repetition work with the dialogue that is supposed to be meaningful. Example: at one point in the middle of the book, Henri gives some speech to John about how there's always hope. And towards the end, near the final battle, John parrots this back. Cue violins, then dramatic battle music.
It's not the worst book, not by a long shot. The action sequence is a bit dull, the bully turning into a good guy at the end underdeveloped. There's more problems but there's no point listing them, because they're common problems in teen action books. 'Pitticus Lore' can write. It's even moving at times. But it just feels like it was made in a YA factory. I will read the next book, which is more than I can say for Michael Grant's painfully bad Gone etc series. But it's missing something important. Maybe it's hope. Or possibly just depth.

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