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Numbers

Numbers is a YA sci-fi-ish novel by Rachel Ward.

Jem has seen the numbers since she can remember. Like any child, she just accepted it and didn’t wonder what it was. But when her drug-addict mother died, Jem got her first idea of what the numbers meant. Because the number she always saw when she looked at her mom? 10102001. The day her mom died? 10/10/2001.

Over the years she’s been shuttled from one foster home to another, always seeing the numbers – never sure if she caused their death or could just see it. But there was nothing more haunting than seeing the number of a toddler, seeing the inevitable end of every single person she came in contact with.

Now fifteen, Jem has succeeded in having not one friendship or relationship of any kind. But then she meets Spider. He’s another outsider – goofy and good-natured. Somehow she finds her guard melting just a tad around him, until she becomes almost-friends with him.

Only problem? According to his number, she doesn’t have much time left with him. And sadly, the time they have left may be on the run – after a trip to London ends with her and Spider being sought after by police…

Numbers is different than other sci-fi/supernatural books on the market right now in YA. It takes place in gritty, urban London and is very grounded and grim. Jem’s character is very flawed, very broken, and very alone. She is sometimes caustic, sometimes unlikable – yet Rachel Ward helps you to understand her, to forgive her.

Jem’s ability is not one that anyone would generally want, I think. And that brings about even more empathy. Thing is, Numbers is much more a character study than it is a sci-fi/paranormal novel. You’ll want to know that before you jump in.

In Numbers you are presented with a suspenseful, taut story that follows two outsiders on the run, finding friendship and closeness for the first time. They’re scared, and it’s palpable. Spider’s number is so close, though, that it adds to the nerve-wracking tone. You wonder along with Jem – how is he going to die? Why? Is there any way to stop it? The answers are heartbreaking and unforgettable.

Numbers is definitely a darker novel, but there is hope too. I am happy to hear that there is going to be a second and third book coming out. I don’t know how that’ll work, as the story didn’t seem to have a need for a sequel – but I’m glad to follow wherever Rachel Ward is taking Jem.

This is a personal journey, with a twist.

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