12 Weeks of Hot Summer Reads: Num8ers by Rachel Ward

This is Week 2 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Jem has a secret. When she looks into someone's eyes, a number appears in her head. But not just any number - it's the date of their death. She has seen the numbers ever since she was a little girl, but she didn't know what they meant until her own mother died of an overdose. Since then, Jem has had a rough life, being thrown out of one foster home after another, labeled as a problem kid in school and put in "special" classes. She has built an impenetrable wall around herself so she doesn't have to see anyone's number, and no one so far has been able to be close to her. Until Spider.

Spider is an impossible tall, fidgety boy from school, who Jem runs into one day while skipping class. Through different events they become close, and Jem realizes that she has let herself care about someone for the first time since her mother's death. One day they go together to see the London Eye, when Jem notices something disconcerting. She sees the same death date in every tourist's eyes. Unnerved, she grabs Spider's hands and convinces him to run away from the London Eye, which explodes shortly thereafter. They are caught on security camera fleeing from the scene and are considered suspects. All of a sudden - Jem and Spider, two "troubled" kids from London's projects, are on the run.

Num8ers is an interesting debut novel by Rachel Ward. When asked about the inspiration for the book, Ward says:

"It’s a thriller, but it’s also a love story. The idea came to me on one of my early morning dog walks. I was influenced by Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ in which a girl has an extraordinary gift. It made me think about how someone with a gift would fare in the UK today. I was also fascinated by the TV series ‘Six Feet Under’ which was set in a funeral home and featured a death scene at the start of each episode with a name and date of death on screen. It made me think that there is a date out there that will apply to each of us. Would it make any difference if we knew it? Turning 40 also made me ponder mortality, and as I was thinking about it quite a bit, I thought that perhaps I should write about it. Maybe it was therapy and I was writing my way through my mid-life crisis!"

When you read Num8ers, you certainly do ponder mortality. Jem poses a lot of intriguing questions about death, but her true viewpoint is revealed when she says, "We know it's all going to come to an end one day, but we shouldn't let that weigh us down. We shouldn't let it stop us from living."

This book is for older teens - ninth grade and up, due to profanity and mature topics. This is the first of a trilogy. The Chaos, the second book, will be published soon. The library has the book and audio versions.

The official site where you can read the book's first chapter is here. The trailer is linked below.