79 pages 2 hours read

Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2010

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Summary and Study Guide


I Am Number Four (2010) is the first book in the modern young adult science fiction series Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore, the pseudonym of authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes. Despite the novel’s mixed reviews, I Am Number Four spent seven successive weeks at the top of the New York Times children’s bestseller list. The novel was adapted into a film of the same name in 2011 by DreamWorks Pictures.

Plot Summary

I Am Number Four is told from the first-person perspective of 15-year-old Number Four (aka John Smith), an alien from the planet Lorien. The Loric race is made up of two groups: the Garde, who possess supernatural powers known as Legacies, and the Cêpan, the keepers or guardians assigned to each member of the Garde at an early age. Ten years ago, a powerful and deadly race of aliens known as the Mogadorians invaded and defeated the planet of Lorien. The nine Garde and their accompanying Cêpan escaped to Earth in hopes of one day returning to their home planet once it could again sustain life. The nine Garde members are responsible for defending the planet of Lorien, while the Cêpan are responsible for teaching the Garde about the history of the planet and helping the Garde develop and hone their Legacies. Each of the nine members of the Garde is bound by a protective charm that ensures that they can only be killed in the order of their numbers as long as they all stay apart.

Number Four is the fourth member of the Garde. The novel opens with the death of Number Three, which means that Four is now next in line. At the start of the novel, Four and his Cêpan, Henri, are living in Florida, having moved and created brand new identities 21 times over the last decade to remain hidden from the Mogadorians. When they learn that Number Three is dead, they move to the small town of Paradise, Ohio, where Four adopts the name “John Smith” for his new identity.

Four enrolls as a student at Paradise High School, where he meets Sarah Hart, his kind and beautiful classmate and photographer whom he quickly develops a crush on. He also makes an enemy of Mark James, Sarah’s jealous ex-boyfriend and star football player. On Four’s first day of school, Mark starts to pick on Four after he sees him talking to Sarah. Four gets so angry after Mark tries to trip him and humiliate him in his first class that he accidentally activates his first Legacy. His hands are so hot they are painful, and they glow with a bright light. Henri picks him up from school and tells him that he has developed Lumen, which grants him the power to produce light and to remain invulnerable to heat.

Meanwhile, Four meets a beagle on campus named Bernie Kosar who takes a liking to him and follows him home. Four takes him in. Four also becomes friends with his classmate Sam Goode, a hardcore fan of aliens and conspiracy theories who reads an extraterrestrial conspiracy theory magazine called They Walk Among Us. He confides in Four that his father disappeared when he was seven, and he believes that his father was abducted by aliens.

Henri and Four attend a Halloween parade, where Four joins Sarah and Sam on a haunted hayride that turns out to be a cruel prank orchestrated by Mark James and his teammates. When they attack Four in the woods, he uses his newfound Legacy to defend himself and Sam. He demands that Mark and his friends not tell anyone what happened. Sam, who clearly saw Four’s hands light up, is petrified that he is an alien, but Four manages to convince him that the idea is insane.

As the school year progresses, Four and Sarah begin to date. Four is overjoyed that he is finally getting a chance at a normal life. Henri is concerned that Four isn’t progressing fast enough, but he pushes Four in his training in hopes that he will develop his second Legacy, telekinesis. He has a feeling that something is not quite right, and after Sam tells him about a story in They Walk Among Us about an alien race named the Mogadorians who are planning to take over Earth, he finds out where the magazine is printed and goes to the address. When he doesn’t return hours later, Four knows something is wrong. His heightened state of fear and panic causes his telekinesis to finally develop. He enlists Sam’s help, and they illegally drive Sam’s dad’s truck all the way to Athens, Ohio. When they get there, Henri is tied up. Four uses his new powers of telekinesis to rescue Henri and force his captors to tell him everything they know. While he is interrogating them, he accidentally reveals his powers to Sam, forcing Henri to tell Sam the truth about their identities. The Mogadorians show up, but Four, Henri, and Sam escape quickly. When they get back to the house, Henri is adamant that they leave Paradise immediately. Four refuses, and Henri relents, but on the condition that Four’s training comes above all else, including Sarah and Sam.

At the climax of the novel, Four, Sarah, and Sam are all at a party at Mark’s house when a fire breaks out in the basement. Four is forced to use his powers to save Sarah, and afterward, Mark shows Four a YouTube video that was anonymously sent to him and that clearly shows him jumping out the window holding Sarah. At the same time the video is leaked, Henri and Four both receive mysterious messages that indicate the sender knows who they are. Henri is furious at Four and demands that they leave immediately. Four instead races to the school because he knows Sarah is in danger since her face is clearly visible in the video.

When he gets to Paradise High School, he meets Number Six. She tells him that she has been looking for them since the death of Number Three. Four, Six, Henri, Sarah, and Mark engage in a battle at the school against the Mogadorians. During the battle, it is revealed that Bernie Kosar is in fact Hadley, Four’s pet Chimæra, a Loric species of shapeshifting animals, who has been with Four his whole life in different animal forms.

During the battle, Sam appears and kills a Mogadorian soldier. Four uses an ability he didn’t know he had and communicates with one of the Mogadorians beasts, convincing them to turn against the Mogadorians. Henri dies in the midst of the fighting, a devastating loss for Four. Before he dies, Henri tells Four to read the letter in the chest at their house and that them coming to Paradise was not by chance.

After Henri’s death, Four knows that he has to leave. He and Sarah share a difficult goodbye but agree that they will wait for each other, no matter what happens. Sam joins Four, Number Six, and Bernie Kosar as they leave Paradise in search of the other Loric.