Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Numbers

Jem always reacts the same when people get close to her: she pushes them away. She doesn't want to get to know people, to come to like them because she believes that they will leave her anyway. Spider, a boy from her school, manages to get past her defences and they become friends. There's just one problem: Spider will die in two weeks. Jem knows – she knows when everyone is going to die because she can see the date in peoples' eyes, their numbers. When the two are at the wrong place at the wrong time during a terrorist attack on London, the become fugitives together, but even they know that things won't end well.

I loved Jem and Spider right from the start, both are very vivid characters, very strong and angry and they feel that they have to fight alone against the whole world. It's not a very optimistic picture Rachel Ward paints of society and the chances people have when they have fallen through the cracks of the system. The book probably would have worked well without the supernatural touch, but it does give the story another twist. I found myself hoping against hope that there would be a way to change Spider's number. The question is: are things really predetermined or do we have free will, can we change our future?

I tend to go with the Trousers of Time school of thought Terry Pratchett suggests. Every decision we make spawns a new universe where things are just that tiny bit different – or maybe very different. I just like that idea and I refuse to believe that our lives are laid out right from the start. We certainly are influenced in our decisions by education, peer groups and and the sum of our experiences, sometimes so strongly that only one outcome seems possible. Nonetheless, we have it in us to surprise the universe.

Soundtrack: New Model Army, Green and Grey in particular. I listened to NMA the whole time I was reading the book and the music fits it very well, it's just as angry, disappointed and ready to fight as Jem and Spider are.

25th book in the Library challenge

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