“Numbers” by Rachel Ward-My review


£6.99 Chicken House Book trailer

Rachel Ward website

“I’d always seen the numbers, for as long as I could remember. I thought everyone did. Walking down the street, if my eyes met someone else’s there it would be, their number.  I used to tell my mum people’s numbers as she pushed me along in my buggy. I thought she’d be pleased. She’d think I was clever. Yeah, right.”

Fifteen year old Jem has a special gift. When she looks into a person’s eyes she sees numbers: the date they will die. Now in foster care, and becoming more disengaged with the world, Jem becomes friends with a tall guy called Spider. At first she is uncomfortable with his attention, but as she gets to know him their friendship turns into something much more intense. His Nan senses people’s auras, and she knows there is something different about Jem. But Jem refuses to share her secret.

One day Spider and Jem visit London, and as they head towards the London Eye Jem notices that every person has the same date in their eyes. It freaks her out. She knows something BIG is happening, and panics, speeding away from the area. After a catastrophic event, Spider and Jem go on the run. Jem knows exactly how much time Spider has left, but keeps it to herself; yet ever conscious of the date approaching…

This is a gritty, contemporary love story with an out-of -this-world twist. Rachel Ward paints a bleak picture of how vulnerable teenagers are treated, and reflects how kids with nothing to lose can quickly become embroiled in drugs, violence and crime. In a lot of ways Jem is a passive character, allowing herself to be pulled along by Spider- she seems to have lost all sense of direction due to her mother’s death and difficulties adjusting to life in her foster home. She has to learn to drop her defences to become a friend and lover. It appears to be the only time she has had a close bond with another person. We know the brevity of this relationship, and the tension is built wondering how Spider will succumb, and how events will lead to that moment.

There is a good range of lively bad language, and some adult content, but all done very realistically and not at all gratuitously. Written in the first person, Rachel Ward captures the voice of Jem expertly and with refreshing truth. It was so nice to read a proper British feeling book for a change! There is a lot of tension and suspense, so steel yourself!

When’s the film coming?

Pippa Wilson

26th August 2014

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