Review: Numbers by Rachel Ward

Numbers by Rachel Ward
Rachel Ward's website here // $12.23 from {amazon}

Publisher: The Chicken House (February 1, 2010)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
Whenever Jem meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die.

Burdened with such an awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. But while they’re waiting to ride the Eye Ferris wheel, Jem notices that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today’s number. Today’s date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem’s world is about to explode!

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: The first thing I want to clear up: what made me interested in Numbers was the plot summary, though the book itself was much different from my expectations. I had the impression that the book would be Jem running in circles to prevent a potential terrorist attack - but no, hold that thought. Instead, the terrorist attack takes place very early in the book and the following 300 or so pages depict Jem and her new friend, Spider's journey as they run from the scene of the crime and are chased by police for interrogation. Unexpected? Yes. Just as intense? Definitely.

The idea, being able to foretell death, behind Numbers wasn't exactly new, but Rachel Ward adds a fresh voice to an older concept. She doesn't smooth down the rough edges of reality and instead manages to find the beauty in the ordinary, daily occurrences that we often take for granted. I loved the gritty descriptions, though I felt the writing was slightly bogged down by the cursing. The plot itself was fast-paced and action-packed, though there were a few parts that had me wondering what exactly the characters were thinking... but, I digress, perhaps their brains shut off for five minutes.

My main problem with Numbers lies with Spider and Jem. They're rough and occasionally nasty, and I give props to Rachel Ward for being able to make two people who, by societal values, would be characterized as troublemakers or good-for-nothings and actually make them semi-likeable. Spider had a stubbornness and optimism that I admired, but he also had this naivety that annoyed me; though his innocent perception of drugs and stealing can perhaps be seen as a reflection of some misguided teens today. As for Jem, I don't think I have to say more beyond she-can-see-deaths-and-doesn't-go-crazy to prove her strength, but her constant whining and, at times, irrationality irked me. Especially at the end, ugh. Overall though, the characters were fine, and what I enjoyed more were the sarcastic dialogue and changing relationship between the two. The dialogue was spot-on in expressing the two's personalities, slang and all, and it was sweet seeing Jem's vulnerability peek through as she gradually opened up to Spider.

In general, I felt Rachel Ward's exploration of this seeing death concept was solid, though not exceptional. There are enough elements to satisfy the light psychological reader, but I would say to read a book like The Mark by Jen Nadol over Numbers if you're looking for a more psychological read at the expense of some action.
Romance: Emotional, but one instance of sex. There is sex, but it's very broad and basically follows the process of naked, love, then happiness. Given the book's young adult label, I don't think any additional censorship is necessary.
Cover: 3.0 -- A little bit too bland for me, and I feel like the eye could have benefitted from better placement or blending. It does set the slightly creepy tone for the book though.
Writing: 4.0
Characters:  3.0
Plot: 4.0

Bottom Line: Numbers was a fast-paced read that offers both an interesting premise and a realistic, fresh teen voice from debut author Rachel Ward. I would recommend Numbers to anyone looking for a gritty teen adventure with a bit of a psychological twist, and congrats to Rachel on a solid debut!