It's been a crazy busy month with the RWA National Conference and associated travel. One of the highlights of the conference was seeing Simone Elkeles win the RITA for her young adult novel, Perfect Chemistry, and Erica O'Rourke win the Golden Heart for her YA manuscript, Unchosen.
A consequence of two weeks away from home, time filled to bursting with a conference to-do list, was the fact that I only finished reading one YA novel this month. But it was a good one. Num8ers (yes, it's spelled with an "8" instead of a "b") by Rachel Ward (the author, not the actress) has a bit of a paranormal element to it -- the heroine, Jem, sees the dates of people's deaths when she looks into their eyes -- but that's not really what the book is about. It's more of the story of forgotten and overlooked youths, the kids who have been dealt a really crappy hand in life. Since Jem's mother's death of a drug overdose when Jem was six (an event that led Jem to realize what the numbers meant), she's bounced around from foster home to foster home and never felt like anyone really cared about her. She's built understandable walls around herself, both because of her life situation and the fact that she doesn't want to get close to people when she knows the dates of their deaths every time she looks at them. When you refuse to interact with others, people begin to get certain ideas about who you are as a person, even if those ideas are completely wrong.
Jem's life changes when she meets, befriends and eventually falls for a boy called Spider. He's so full of energy, it's infectious. She tries not to get involved because of his ever-present number, but her efforts prove fruitless. During a day trip in London, Jem foresees a chilling event when she realizes all of the people around her have the same number in their eyes. She grabs Spider and runs, and that choice leads to a chain of events that will have you turning pages and rooting for this most unlikely of couples despite what you suspect may await you toward the end of the book.
Oddly, I'm not a book crier. A movie crier, yes. Book crier, no. Only rarely does a book even make me tear up, but this one did. Added to that is an epilogue that has me eagerly anticipating reading the sequel, Numbers 2: The Chaos, out now.
Learn more about Ward and her books at her website.
Pardon the brief commercial. :) I'm thrilled that my second YA novel, Winter Longing, comes out this Thursday!