Numbers – Rachel Ward.
I decided to read this after I wrote an article about the author when she appeared on a radio programme at the station that I volunteer at. She’s a local councillor as well as an author and when she was interviewed she read out a few sections of the book and it sounded really interesting so I thought I would give it a go.
That and I guess I’m in a bit of a teen fiction moment after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. I’m not going to make the fact that I’ve written about the author before make this a biased post though – just getting that out there!
So, Numbers is the first of three books all centred around the same concept, the ability to see the dates of peoples deaths when making eye contact with them. The first one is the story of orphaned foster child Jem, a fifteen year old who has dealt with the ability to see the date of peoples deaths all her life, having realised what the numbers meant after her mum died. From the ending of this book I guess the sequel is about Jem’s son, so I’m guessing the third one is about her grandchild but I’m not one hundred percent on that!
Anyway, fifteen year old Jem spends most of her life alone, not daring to make friends because of knowing when they will die. That all changes when the ever persistent Spider makes his way into her affections and its on a day out in London when the adventure begins.
I both liked and disliked this book. Its got such a brilliant and unique concept – the ability to tell when someone is going to die, its horrific and frightening and there is a whole plethora of emotions and themes to explore with that. So it was a tad disappointing because it didn’t do as much as it could have with the subject matter at hand. I don’t know if those things are explored in the other two books or not, I kind of hope they are, but I don’t know whether I will read them.
One thing I really liked was that bits of the story where set in Bath, its weird but I’ve never really read anything that’s been based around here before, I mentioned that I liked the setting of Confessions of a Shopaholic because I know London really well, and I got the same sort of feeling with Numbers because it talked about bits of Bath that I know from having lived here. I like being able to imagine what places look like, but I’m also a little lazy so I like to picture places I have actually been to as well. It was almost like I was giving her directions to the abbey at one point which made me feel well superior! The locations of the story are a bit vague at the start, you’re never really sure where it is Jem and Spider live, only that its sort of near London. So I really started to get into it after places I had heard of started being mentioned, helped me get my barings a little!
Something that I didn’t like very much was the way in which the teenage characters were portrayed which ruined it a little for me. I actually cringed at some points and it just made the author seem really middle class and out of touch (which is weird really because I did write a little piece on her and I happen to know that she has children and wrote this for her daughter.) especially when it came to describing what teenagers living in what I guess is a London suburb get up to. This book would have you believe that if you live in or around London and come from a broken home you’re obviously going to be into drinking, drugs, car theft and carrying weapons which is a bit stereotypical. It annoyed me because I guess it wasn’t that long ago since I was a teenager and none of those things interested me or anyone that I really know.
Towards the end of the book theres a bit which seemed ridiculously far fetched even for a science fiction book. Jem is on the run and sits in Bath Abbey for about four days whilst the police just calmly wait outside as though it were perfectly normal for a fifteen year old to be allowed to live in an abbey for a few days. So that was a bit odd and felt a bit wrong so it let the book down a little bit.
Other than that though I really liked the idea and I think as stories go it wasn’t a bad one. I just think more could have been done with it, but I am allowing for the fact that the hunger games was just so amazing that everything else pales in comparison!
Someone else read this and tell me what you think though!