Fifteen-year-old Jem knows when she looks at someone the exact date they will die, so she avoids relationships and tries to keep out of the way, but when she meets a boy named Spider and they plan a day out together, they become more involved than either of them had planned.

One thought on “Numbers

  1. Tracy Smiles says:

    Numbers, by Rachel Ward (2010), is an intriguing, recently published adolescent novel that explores the complexities of friendship, and was this year’s recipent of the Angus Book Award, awarded by British secondary (high school) to a book written for 13-15 year olds by a British author. It is story about 15 year old Jem, a tough, bitter, and withdrawn teen age girl who has been passed around the foster care system since her mother died of a drug overdose when she was very young. When Jem looks into the eyes of others when sees their “numbers” which are the dates when a person will die. As a result of this gift (curse) Jem avoids connections with other people, keeping to herself, avoiding eye contact, which makes her a social out cast among her peers and care givers. In her most recent foster placement she meets Spider – the first friend she’s ever had – who later becomes her first boyfriend. When terrorists attack the London Eye (a tourist attraction) Jem observes that all of the people around her a Spider who are spending the day there have the same death date, and she and Spider escape from the area, causing the police to think they have something to do with the attack. They decide to runaway. Spider thinks they are running away to start a life together –however, Jem knows this is not the true. She’s hoping she can somehow change the date she keeps seeing in Spider’s eyes, which is 5 days from the day they run.

    As the book opens, we see Jem’s first real friendship beginning to evolve and for me this was one of the strongest qualities of the story, though the seeing death dates plot drew me in as well. Jem meets Spider under a bridge on a day when they are both playing hooky from school. Although Jem initially rejects Spider’s attempts to engage her, he connects with her, and while Jem sees that he has less than three months to live, they begin to hang out, and their friendship evolves into something more. Ward illustrates Jem’s struggle with wanting a friend but being afraid to make herself vulnerable to others effectively.

    I agree with other reviewers that the author brings the reader inside Jem’s and Spider’s experiences well, but felt she missed an opportunity to explore Jem’s paranormal gift (curse) in more depth, especially around the idea of fate and/or destiny. Also, the ending felt rushed, and abrupt. That said, I am glad I read this suspenseful book and would recommend it to others. I would caution, however, that this book is intended for mature adolescents, dealing with sexuality, teen pregnancy, drugs, gangs, and bullies, though not overly sensationalized or inappropriately.

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