Numbers – by Rachel Ward
What I really like and appreciate about Numbers is how unlike anything else I’ve read it is. It is unique and I had very little idea of what to expect throughout most of the book, which is commendable considering how unusual that is. The main character, Jem, also struck me as different from the typical YA heroine. She’s a foster kid, living in the London, who spends most of her time on the streets rather than in school, and avoids contact with and emotional attachment to other people. Which, admittedly, doesn’t sound all that unique, but something about her particular mix of toughness and vulnerability felt different to me.
Jem has always been able to see the numbers, every time she looks into someone’s eyes, but it wasn’t until her mother died that Jem understood that the numbers are death dates. Everyone has one and they never change. Jem keeps to herself, avoiding meeting people’s eyes, until she meets Spider, a boy with a number only a few months away. She becomes friends with him despite her better judgment, and one day, she sees a group of people in London who all have the same number and knows something awful is about to happen. She and Spider are forced on the run, and every day his number looms closer. For the first time, she has someone she cares about and she starts to hope that maybe the numbers can be changed.
The plot, the characters, and the writing are all excellent here, and I liked the book, but something kept me from loving it and I’m not sure what. Maybe it’s that I wasn’t quite as attached to Spider as Jem was. He was a great character, but maybe the constant reminders of his body odor kept me from finding him too appealing. Or it could be that I would have liked the book more if I hadn’t read it right after reading two books I whole-heartedly adored. It’s not really fair for this book to have to compete with them. It is, however, looking much better in comparison to the book I’ve just started reading. Ahem. But that’s next week’s review. Anyway, this book is a bit gritty, with solid, realistic characters and a unique concept. Definitely give it a shot if you’re looking for something a little different.