My rating: 3 of 5 stars
John Smith is a teenage boy in high school and also an alien. He is Number 4, a Loric from the planet Lorien, whose people are eco warriors (like the Lorien elves in LOTR). His planet was attacked by the evil Mogadorians from Mogadon (like the clinical drug and heavy sedative?!) and he and eight other children, along with their guardians, were forced to come to earth and go on the run disguised as humans. While they wait for puberty to kick in and their magic powers to develop they are being systematical hunted and killed in numerical order by the Mogadorians.
This is a young adult science-fiction fantasy set in and around a high school – with all the clichés that entails. Its hero is an alien boy in that fairytale sense where, like in Star Wars or Smallville, he is in every way a human teenager, but with magic powers. This is important because there is the whole high school story line to negotiate, where he makes friends with the geek-outsider, beats the jock-bully and gets the pretty-girlfriend ( whose one character trait is that she builds a cat sanctuary!). I couldn’t help but feel if the alien-boy had a tiny bit more cultural and physical difficulty fitting in, rather than just the usual teenage issues and the matter-of-fact magic, it would have made him a more interesting character.
The book is well plotted and mixes between the alien and the high school story lines with some skill, but parts of the story and dialogue are very clichéd. The way characters react to the fact that their friend is an alien with magic powers and a load of other aliens have just rocked up to try and kill him is also highly unbelievable. There is some terrible writing and copy editing in parts of the action, which means I sometimes got a little confused. Also, the rules for the magic are a tad nonsensical and towards the end the author even seemed to add in a few new rules just when he needed them. Or, just as bad, he will spend ages clunkingly setting up a magical skill or twist just to use it in one sequence. But if those kind of things don’t annoy you too much and you can suspend your disbelief then its a fun trashy-read with lots of exciting action sequences. I think teenagers would love it.