Author: Rachel Ward
Publication: 1st February 2010 by Chichen House
Source: Library book
Ever since she was child, Jem has kept a secret: Whenever she meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die. Burdened with such awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. The two plan a trip to the city. But while waiting to ride the Eye ferris wheel, Jem is terrified to see that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today's number. Today's date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem's world is about to explode!
I had been harbouring expectations for this book for a long time - I wanted suspense, action and some kind of big secret. For me, Numbers didn't quite deliver. However, this review is based solely on the first book so things may change as the trilogy moves along. The ending to this book certainly made me want to pick up the second so the story could potentially lead anywhere.
To start with, I mostly liked Jem as a character. She was feisty, strong-willed and brave and she definitely pushed the story along. The first few scenes in the book have her struggling in class with a teacher she can't connect with, enduring battles with her foster mother and skipping out on school to hang out on her own. She felt like a typical 'lost' child - she feels useless and as though no one cares. I didn't like some of her behaviour though and sometimes she was downright cruel but I felt like there was more to her that was yet to be discovered. She's also struggling with the massive burden of being able to see people's death dates as soon as she makes eye contact with them. She hates this 'gift' and she spends a lot of her life putting up barriers to protect herself and distance herself from the numbers. She's never found anyone who makes her want to lower them or who makes her want to forge a friendship. Enter Spider - a fellow student in her class who, although is starting to get caught up in a criminal world as a means to make some cash, is also a very sweet, endearing and fun-loving character. Even though Jem and Spider come from very similar backgrounds and home-lives, they feel very opposite to each other. Spider softens Jem's character and acts as a cushion to her negative attitude. He's full of life and starts to help Jem realise that there's nothing wrong with having a friend to help along the way.
The rest of the book stems from the event detailed in the synopsis - Jem and Spider head into London for a day out and as they're stood looking at the prices for the London Eye Jem notices that everyone in the queue has the same number - it's today's date. As she panics and runs away, dragging Spider with her, they hear a massive bang and turn around to see that the London Eye has exploded. For me, this was when the book was starting to get exciting. It's the same with every book - you reach the point in the story that you were enticed with in the synopsis and you get excited for the adventure ahead.
However for me, the rest of the book fell flat. Without giving too much away, Jem and Spider end up running away with stolen money and a stolen car. They find out that they were caught running away from the scene in London on CCTV and now the police are on the look-out for them. This was one aspect that I did enjoy reading about as Rachel Ward raised the issue of police profiling and racial issues - whether or not the police are on the lookout for a stereotypical scapegoat to place blame on and how much this could truly change and damage someone's life.
Most of the rest of the book follows Jem and Spider making their way across the south of England to the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare which holds a great importance for Spider as it's the only place he's ever felt truly happy.
Parts of this adventure were quite exciting to read but never reached their full potential, but you could feel the danger as the police were snapping at their heels and starting to catch-up with them. The romance added a welcome layer to the story, mainly because it was something different to them running away. It was pretty strange and awkward but it felt genuine. However, I felt cheated. I wanted the amazing premise of the book to feel like something more than two teenagers sleeping rough and rationing a packet of biscuits as they tried to escape. It felt like the majority of the book had nothing to do with Jem being able to see these numbers and that was the part that had made me pick the book up in the first place.
The end of the book, however, redeemed it somewhat. I can't say anything without it being a spoiler but it was pretty sad and the cliffhanger also made me really wonder where this story was going to lead and spiked my interest again. I will read the second book at some point because I really want my questions answered, however, the book has left me in two minds. If the premise grabbed you, have a read and let me know what you think too!