Courage Under Fire: A Review of ‘I Am Number Four’

“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”—John Wayne

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 6-10

Review and Thoughts

In my continuing effort to find books that appeal to boys, I stumbled upon I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.  This book is full of action and adventure and teen love, which is the perfect combination for ANY young adult reader.

The story begins with our main character, John, explaining his current situation.  He is a “refugee” alien who has come to planet Earth with his guide named Henri.  John and Henri had to leave their planet Lorien when another group of aliens, the Mogadorians, came to take over.  John is a part of a special group who has unique abilities (or legacies as the book calls them) to fight the Mogadorians.  When the Loriens came to Earth, a spell of protection was placed over them.  As long as these nine Lorien children were separated, the Mogadorians could only kill them in order.  As the book begins, three have been killed and John is Number Four.

Henri and John move to a small town in Ohio and decide to stay there in hiding, so the Mogadorians can’t find them.  While here, John begins to acquire his special talents and Henri trains him to learn how to use them.  Unfortunately, “laying low” becomes an impossible task for John as he falls in love with a beautiful girl named Sarah who used to date the most popular guy in school.  As in any high school, this causes problems and there are numerous run-ins with this “head honcho”.

This is also the point in John’s life when he begins to receive his Legacies.  He develops telekinetic abilities, lights on his hands, and the ability to withstand fire.  Henri trains him and they practice often, though John is usually distracted by his infatuation for Sarah.

As the story progresses, the Mogadorians get closer to finding John and Henri and they foolishly stay where they are until they are all cornered in the local school.  Here they join with Number Six, who has lost her guide and has been looking for John and Henri for some time.  Through a very epic final battle, the Loriens, and John’s friends from this small town, fight the Mogadorians and are able to hold them off…for now.

I Am Number Four is the first in the Lorien Legacies.  I can understand how these books would appeal to the young adult readers (especially those who are fans of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and the Divergent series) however, I don’t feel that this book is quite the same caliber.  The writing is rather simplistic compared with the other literature available.  The exposition of the story uses quite a bit of direct characterization and overt description.  The story also seems unsophisticated and stereotypical of every young adult story ever written.  The perfect, beautiful, popular girl falls in love with the new stand-offish boy.  This is their first love and it is perfect.  There are no problems between them, they just want to be together (even when she finds out he is an alien and she almost dies because of him).  Side note:  I feel like this would be a great series for the WB Network.

This story does not really lend itself to deep discussion and analysis which is why I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a classroom setting.  I feel that it would be a great read for fun and leisure time, but students in literature class need to be pushed a little harder.

Possible Issues

  • There are quite a few fight scenes, though none are particularly graphic, and they are mostly action scenes, they still promote violence.
  • There is one heavy make-out scene with John and Sarah. There is nothing particularly inappropriate about it, but depending on the age group, parents may want to discuss it.
  • The word “dick” is used in reference to Sarah’s ex-boyfriend.
  • They go to a party and there is underage drinking.

Further Discussion

  • How does John demonstrate courage throughout the novel?
  • Many characters demonstrate selfish behaviors throughout the novel. Think about 5 particular instances where characters demonstrate their selfish behavior rather than thinking of others.
  • Why is underage drinking dangerous? What can you do if you are caught in a situation where you are surrounded by people who are drinking and are not legally allowed to be doing so?

Catholic Resources

General Teaching Resources

  • Lesson Plans from
  • Lesson Plans from
  • Define direct and indirect characterization.  Choose three characters and list characteristics that are direct and then describe each character in a paragraph using indirect characterization.
  • Write a descriptive paragraph describing what the planet Lorien might have looked like before the Mogadorians took over.  Use all five senses while describing.
  • Watch the movie and compare and contrast it with the book.

    •  Read more of the Lorien Legacies.



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