I Am Number Four begins as a man and a boy rest in a remote African hut. Strange, tall figures with pointed teeth burst in. They kill the man with a long sword “made of a shining white metal not found on Earth.” In his last breath, the man tells the boy to run. The boy obeys and runs away through the jungle at speeds around 60 miles per hour. The tall figures pursue him to a ravine. He leaps, not knowing if his superpowers are enough to carry him over. He lands the jump, but more enemies await him on the other side. They stab him, and he dies.
The dead boy is Number Three, the third of nine super-powerful children who were sent to Earth about a decade ago, after their planet, Lorien, was destroyed. The attack on Lorien was unexpected. It was perpetrated by a race of tall aliens with pointed teeth called Mogadorians, who wanted to strip Lorien of its resources. In the confusion of the attack, the Loric leadership managed to send away nine children who would grow up to become members of the Garde, a gifted group of Loric people blessed with amazing fighting abilities. The children were sent with Cêpan, adult bureaucrats who would train them as they grew to puberty and developed their powers.
Before the children left Lorien, a magical leader numbered them from one to nine and cast a charm that declared that they could only be killed in that order—as long as they remained separated. Since the children have arrived on Earth, they have lived in hiding, each with a single Cêpan. They are unable to contact one another for fear of breaking the charm. They are all super-strong and super-fast, but they must wait for puberty before they develop Legacies, special powers that will allow them to fight. The Mogadorians have pursued the children relentlessly, hoping to kill them off before they grow powerful and join forces.
When Three is killed, Four knows it immediately. Every time one of the Loric Garde is killed, the charm that binds them draws a circular scar around his ankle. The experience is excruciating and—worse—lets off intense heat that is obvious to the humans around him. Four and Henri, his Cêpan companion, immediately pack up their house and move away. Four is only a sophomore in high school, but he has moved more than twenty times—every time he or Henri thinks the Mogadorians might have information about their whereabouts. Now the stakes are higher than they have ever been before. Now that Three is dead, Four is next in line to be killed.
Henri and Four—who has been going by the name of Daniel for the past few months—burn their identification documents and leave their home in the Florida keys within a few hours of Three’s death. Henri chooses a new home in Paradise, Ohio, and Four chooses a new name, John Smith. He knows that running is necessary, but he is tired of it. He wishes he could just have a steady home, a few real friends, and an ordinary life. He says this to Henri, who reminds him, “This isn’t about you.” Four has a responsibility to keep himself alive, to train, and eventually to fight the Mogadorians. The six remaining members of the Loric Garde are the only chance their planet has left.
On his first morning in Paradise, Ohio, Four starts school. At the beginning of the day, Henri reminds him to keep a low profile, but this proves impossible. A beautiful girl named Sarah Hart flirts with him—which makes Mark James, her bully ex-boyfriend, jealous. Mark trips Four, and Four stares Mark down in front of everyone. Afterward, Four feels hot and shaky, and his hands begin to glow. He realizes his first Legacy must be forming. He cannot hide his glowing hands or make them turn off. He fakes an asthma attack and locks himself in the school darkroom until Henri can come get him.
At home, Henri explains that Four’s first Legacy is called Lumen. He will be able to make his hands light up and turn off at will, and he will develop a resistance to flame and heat. However, strong emotions will make the lights in Four’s hands flip on and off at random until he learns to control himself. For the time being, he has to wear a pair of ugly work gloves whenever his hands light up in public.
The day after Four develops Lumen, Henri begins training him. He explains that Four will develop several more Legacies over the next few months or years. His major power, the one that will bring him to his fullest strength as a fighter, will come last. Together Henri and Four open a special chest they brought with them from Lorien. Henri takes out a magical crystal that is tied to the Lumen. With its help, he leads Four through a meditation session and allows him to witness the destruction of Lorien firsthand. Henri also lights fires under Four’s hands to train his resistance to flame.
Four soon grows attached to his new home and life in Paradise, Ohio. One day a dog appears at his front door. His collar says “Bernie Kosar,” and Henri allows him to stay. Sarah Hart becomes Four’s partner in home economics, and they strike up a friendship. He also befriends Sam Goode, a geek who is obsessed with alien conspiracy theories. Four wishes he did not have to lie to Sarah and Sam about his real identity, but he is glad to have their friendship anyway.
But not everything is perfect in Paradise. Mark James and his friends from the football team bully both Four and Sam. When Four goes on a Halloween hayride with his new friends, the football players try to beat him up and humiliate him in front of...
(The entire section is 2253 words.)