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Numbers: Book 1 Paperback – February 1, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 187 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Numbers Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Numbers have a different meaning for 15-year-old Jem: the numbers that pop into her head when she makes eye contact with anyone reveal the day that person will die. Orphaned after her mother's overdose, Jem has been in foster care for years and avoids forming relationships until she meets Spider, another outsider who, despite Jem's efforts, pushes past her self-imposed barriers. A trip to the London Eye ends in disaster when Jem realizes that the tourists waiting in line have the same number and that they are all going to die that very day. Wanted for questioning after fleeing the scene of an apparent terrorist attack, Jem and Spider go on the run—a prospect made all the more daunting for Jem because she knows that Spider's number is up in just a few days. Sarah Coomes brings Rachel Ward's gritty story (Chicken House, 2010) to life with emotion and intensity. She perfectly captures Jem, a teen who hides her pain and loneliness behind a tough girl attitude, and gives Spider his own distinct nuances as well. Jem's emotional growth in the latter half of the book is satisfying, and listeners will be awaiting the sequel even as they are reeling from the twists at the end of this novel.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Fifteen-year-old Jem Marsh has always had an unwelcome gift: when she looks into a person’s eyes, she sees the date of their death. A foster-home child since her drug-addicted mother’s overdose, Jem’s knowledge and experience isolate her from her peers. She surprises herself by building a relationship with another misfit, the tall, geeky Spider. Their interracial romance (Jem is white, Spider is black) leads to a day trip to London, which ends disastrously when Jem realizes that all the tourists at the London Eye Ferris wheel have the same death date: that day. Ward’s first novel is a fast-paced thriller with deep philosophical roots and tremendous empathy for those who don’t fit the mold, not to mention a jaw-dropping ending that stands alone beautifully while whetting readers’ appetites for the sequel. Clear, straightforward prose is the perfect voice for prickly Jem, and Ward’s complex, intriguing characterizations challenge the reader to look beyond appearances. The British setting and tone will intrigue, not deter, U.S. readers. A fascinating premise, creatively explored. Grades 8-12. --Debbie Carton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Numbers (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chicken House; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545143004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545143004
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rachel Ward's NUMBERS has a good premise: a teenage British girl who can see your "number" (that is, the date of your death) just by looking into your eyes. It's the kind of "blessing" that is, in fact, a "curse" and has all kinds of possibilities as a science fiction thriller. The trouble is, NUMBERS has an identity problem. It's a coming-of-age tale that wants badly to be a science fiction piece and ultimately winds up being a hybrid -- one that doesn't quite satisfy on either front.

Not that there's a lack of things to like about the book. It maintains your interest as the protagonist, Jem, a rather street-smart type, hooks up with Spider, a black ne'er-do-well who gets in trouble with the law and goes on the lam with his sweetheart. In fact, the "road" portion of the book, where Jem and Spider are fleeing authorities after witnessing a terrorist attack (they ran because Jem saw the same numbers -- that day's -- in all the people's eyes), is the best stretch of all, as it allows Ward to show a deft hand at characterization and humor. But the numbers keep getting in the way, and when they do, you expect Ward to go somewhere with them. She never quite does that. Instead, the book holds to realism more than you might expect, and you grow increasingly intolerant of a numbers sub-plot that ultimately transforms into an irritant. It all lands in a heap at the end -- an eye-roll "surprise" line at the finish which doesn't quite satisfy and seems a bit pat.

Still, I wager that the book might appeal to older teens (if it were a movie, it would assuredly earn its "R" rating) curious as to what happens with the death-date thing. I myself wondered how Ward would handle it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The earlier reviewer who wrote: "The book started off strong, bogged down in the middle, and then whimpered toward an unsatisfying predictable ending" was spot on.

The premise is that Jem, a 15 year old orphaned girl in London knows when people will die. When she looks someone in the eye, a date pops into her head; that date is the day the person will die. Knowing when others will die leads Jem to avoid personal relationships with everyone; she never lets anyone get too close.
Jem, begrudgingly, befriends another social outcast like herself nick-named Spider. When the pair finds themselves suspended from school, they head for the tourist areas of London, and wind up making a bit of a scene in front of the London Eye. Jem then notices that a bunch of people in line for the Eye have the same number: today.

It's a wonderful setup that quickly devolves into familiar themes and worn out cliches.

The big lure of "Numbers" is centered around the London Eye, but this particular plot device runs its course rather rapidly (and yet, is never resolved). It's merely the launching point for the "grand adventure" in the book. I put grand adventure in quotes there to signify that it's really not all that grand. I completely understand the author's decision to use this event as a fulcrum, but the adventure that follows seems to glorify being homeless, not showering, and stealing. I could mention a few other items, but I don't want to completely give the story away.

The upshot for me being that Jem and Spider make some SERIOUSLY bad choices and the author justifies these choices by saying it's because of where they come from. Blaming society... hasn't that been done already?
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Format: Hardcover
3 Stars - First off, I almost didn't finish reading Numbers. It kept me forever waiting for something to happen. I never felt that I connected with either of the characters until I'd say the last few pages. Then I finally felt like Jem was or could be a real person, who was more then the hard shell she put up around her.

After I finished reading, I figured a few things out, that the parts of the book that dragged for me, needed to drag for the end result to have the affect on me that it did. To be able to really see just what the message of this book was, there needed to be all that came before it. At least for me to be able to understand things that is.

The message is finally clear in the last few pages and I'm sure there are other readers out there who will have the same reaction I did. I don't want to tell anyone because it will give too much away.

Jem is such a strong 15 year old girl that sometimes that strong nature gets in the way. She tries to stay away from everyone for her fear of the numbers that she knows are the dates people will die, she just doesn't understand why she can see them or what they really mean.

Along the way she allows herself to connect with a fellow classmate Spider. After witnessing a horrible event, they run. Most of this story is of the two of these characters as they flee from London. Oh, and that's another thing I loved about this book. It's all set in England. Some who aren't familiar to British terms or slang might be a little confused, but don't let that bother you. With the internet it's easy to look things up to understand what the various things mean.

Jem and Spider somehow fit together. They are both so different from each other and yet they work.
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