Although 'I Am Number Four' is based on a bestselling young-adult book by Pittacus Lore (the fictional pen name of James Frey and Jobie Hughes), there's a chance your tween or teen hasn't read it. If that's the case, what better way to motivate them to read than to promise them a trip to the movies afterward?
What's the story?: The book is told from the perspective of 'Number Four,' an adolescent alien that hails from the planet Lorien. Four, aka John Smith, is one of only nine young aliens (plus their assigned Keepers) who were sent to Earth before Lorien was destroyed by Mogadorians, greedy and sadistic aliens from a neighboring planet. Each of the children possessed special powers, or "Legacies," that would help them live long enough to eventually restore the Lorien race. The chosen nine were assigned a number and a special protective charm that would only allow them to be killed in number order; when one is killed, the survivors receive a magical scar. When the third scar appears on John's leg, he knows he's next on the Mogadorians' hit list. In an attempt to evade the Mogadorians, John and Henri move to Paradise, Ohio -- a small town where John enters the local high school and falls for a local girl.
Who Should Read It?: According to our friends at Common Sense Media, the novel is best for kids 12 and up, for the same reasons the movie is rated PG-13. The language and romance make it a little more firmly for teens than the 8-10-year-old friendly 'Harry Potter' and 'Percy Jackson' books.
Major Themes: The messages run from the personal (to truly love someone, they must know you as you really are) to the environmental (if you don't care for your planet, it may lose all of its resources) to the universal (those with power and ability have a responsibility to help the less fortunate). There's also a sweet message about family being the people who take care of you, not just who's related to you, and a general prompt to kids that they shouldn't just be nice to the "cool kids," because everyone has worth.
(Semi-Spoilery) Questions to Ask Kids:
1. How does Henri's insistence that they constantly move impact John's ability to make friends his own age? Why can't John do sports or stand out in any way?
2. What other origin stories involve aliens coming from destroyed planets? Compare John to Clark Kent/Superman.
3. How is the concept of love treated differently on Lorien than on Earth? What does it mean for John to love Sarah?
4. What's at stake if the Mogadorians manage to track down and kill the remaining 6 "Garde" and their Keepers? What's so special about Earth that the Mogadorians have an interest in it?
5. How are humans similar to the Mogadorians? What did the Mogadorians do to their own planet? Are we more like the Mogadorians or the Loric?
6. What changes when Number Six appears on the scene? How does this affect the protective charm? Are the two of them better off together or separately?
7. Why is Sam able to continue on with John and Number Six? Why isn't Sarah?
After You See It: Discuss the differences between the book and the film narrative. Do you think it was faithful adaptation? Do you think there should be another movie after the second book, 'The Power of Six,' comes out this August?