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I hadn't realised this was a book aimed at teenagers when I downloaded it, but found it a surprisingly good read anyway. The one thing that let it down were all the American words used in the narrative of an English book, (sidewalk, potato chips, crackers, flash light, sneakers etc, etc). This particularly surprised me as it is set in London and the two characters are both Londoners. The more often these words were used the more it irritated me and therefore distracted from the story. Other than that, well written and well read.
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If you are going to read the entire book in a working class London accent get a working class voice artist from London. I couldn't listen for long enough to find out whether the narrative voice in this book is actually as inauthentic as the reader made it feel, but my impression was of an unconvincing characterisation and I couldn't suspend disbelief.
I think the summary provided for Numbers was more than a little misleading.
The story was not really about Gem's ability to see people’s death dates or what happens when she realises there will be a terrorist attack in London because of her ability.
I was expecting a high-concept fantasy, young-adult spy sort of thing - something fun with a bit of action hanging on the really interesting premise/supernatural ability. You might even say I was expecting something a bit more ‘American’.
Numbers was in fact the bleak and foreboding story of two teens trying to escape London projects, circumstance, fate and the police.
The characterisation of the two downtrodden, demoralised and marginalised leads is utterly incredible. Furthermore, the prose and the voices are fantastic (though is doesn’t exactly fit with the barely literate background of Gem). In this respect, Numbers is easily one of the most well-written YA books I’ve read.
Sadly though, the story just didn’t do anything for me. The book is in fact a fugitive tale which I do not enjoy. If you like a ‘living on the run’ story, it might be more for you.
In addition the story falls completely flat in the third act; it literally grinds to a halt. Absolutely nothing comes of some really great set-ups which is disappointing and frustrating. To top it off there’s a bit of religion and lofty theology thrown in at the eleventh hour but not explored or developed as thoroughly as it should be – a pet peeve of mine.
I also mentioned the ominous tone of the story. It is meant to feel like that, feel as suffocating as the life of someone like Gem would be but I don’t find this enjoyable. Yes, maybe I’m a bit of a fair-weather reader but at the very least I need enough hope and happiness to balance out my misery and I found Numbers did nothing but gut punch me over and over.
Overall, I’d have to say it was worth the read for the amazingly realistic characters Rachel Ward was managed to craft. Honestly, they should be a bench mark for YA literature. I guess you could argue that characters so real couldn’t face any other fate than something as equally realistic but still the plot really let Numbers down for me.