Monday, October 10, 2011

Numbers by Rachel Ward

Jem has a unique psychic skill. When she looks at people, she can see numbers floating above their heads. She has no idea why this is, until she is six years old and finds her mother dead of an overdose. When she looks at the date of death on the death certificate, she realizes that the numbers correspond to the numbers that had always been floating over her mother's head. As soon as Jem looks into anyone's eyes, she knows exactly when that person is going to die.

Jem prefers to be a loner, keeping mainly to herself both at school and at her foster home. It is too much to handle, seeing all of those numbers and knowing when everyone is going to die. One day when she goes to her favorite place, she runs into another perceived delinquent, Spider. Against her better judgment the two start to become friends and she goes to a party with him. When other kids make fun of her at school and Spider stands up for her, the two of them get suspended from school. Spider punched someone and Jem wielded a knife. They find a homeless man whose number is the present day, so Jem wants to follow him. He becomes paranoid and runs away from them, being killed by a car as he runs into the road.

The two head to downtown London to play during the school day. As they are hanging out near the Ferris wheel, Jem notices that a large group of people has the same date hanging above their heads – the present date. She grabs Spider and they run away, just before a terrorist explosion takes out a bunch of tourists and Londoners.

The two were seen running away just before the blast and become suspects in the terrorist bombing. Spider steals a car so that the two can run away and avoid getting into more trouble. Unfortunately, doing so just puts them deeper and deeper into trouble.

Jem is scared. She is scared of getting caught. She fears that she is somewhat to blame for people's deaths, that she has a connection to their death dates. More importantly, she is scared because she has gotten close to Spider and sees that his date of death is just a few days away. Even worse is when people begin to learn about her gift and want her wisdom.

Numbers is probably geared more toward young adults, but this thirty-something year-old couldn't put it down! I am already a fast reader, and managed to get through the first 286 pages in just a couple of hours. I probably would have finished it then and there had I not had to leave.

The concept of having premonitions about people's deaths is not a new one, but Rachel Ward presents it in a different form with the death date numbers being visible. Jem is a likeable character, despite her “hoodlum” status and attitude. And even though you think you know everything that is going to happen, there are enough little twists and turns to keep you guessing as the pages fly by.

Numbers can also inspire some thought-provoking conversation. What would you do if you knew everyone's death date? Would you tell people when they were going to die if they asked you? How would you handle knowing when you were going to lose someone? And does knowing the date of death somehow make you partially responsible for it? Jem questions many of these things as she narrates her tale. I often found myself pondering the same.

At the end of the Scholastic edition of the book is a sneak preview of the first chapter of the sequel, Cha0s. Quick research on Amazon shows that a third installment is also in the works. I'm eager to read them when they becomes available. And dare I say that I could even see this series being made into a movie, mini-series, or TV show?

Check out your own copy of Numbers by Rachel Ward by clicking on the picture below: