Book Reviews Giveaways

Book Review & Giveaway: NUM8ERS by Rachel Ward

Title: NUM8ERS

Author: Rachel Ward

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic (US & UK)
Publication Date: January 2009 (UK) / February 2010 (US)
Hardcover: 336 pages (US)

Ever since she was child, Jem has kept a secret: Whenever she 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 awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. The two plan a trip to the city. But while waiting to ride the Eye ferris wheel, Jem is terrified to see 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!

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel

How did I read this book: Review Copy from the publisher

Why did I read this book: The cover completely caught my eye, and despite the immense cheesiness of the blurb, I was hooked by the premise of the book. Plus, I really loved the last Chicken House title I read (the supremely excellent Raiders’ Ransom by Emily Diamant), and Numbers was a similar competition-winning novella that was turned into a book. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing.


NUM8ERS is Rachel Ward’s debut novel about a young girl named Jem, and a unique ability. When Jem looks into peoples’ eyes, she can see their number; that is, Jem can see the date of any person’s death. It’s a realization that Jem has made when she was seven after discovering her own mother dead of a heroin overdose. Now, at fifteen years old, Jem has been shuffled to different foster homes, labeled as a problem child for her taciturn behavior and disinterest in school and lack of direction. After cutting class from her latest school, she comes across one of her peers – a lanky, exuberant boy named Spider. And Jem notices immediately that Spider only has a few short weeks left to live. Against her instincts and her own strict rules, Jem begins to spend time with Spider, and the two become friends quickly, bonding in their shared differences. One afternoon on an attempt to impress Jem, Spider takes her on a trip to the London Eye – but Jem soon notices something bizarre and unsettling; everyone at the Eye has the same death date. Freaked out, she drags Spider running from the site, only to see the Eye get blown up a few minutes later. The police hear reports of the two teens fleeing the scene before the blast, and a nationwide search is on for them – and both Jem and Spider fear that they will be thrown into prison forever as scapegoats for the terrorist attack. Both of them know that no one could possibly believe that a screw-up foster kid and stereotyped black, drug dealing teen could have predicted the impossible. Together, Jem and Spider make their way across the English countryside, sleeping in the cold and avoiding towns at all costs. But as the authorities close in on them – and with Spider’s own death date looming – Jem must face a harsh reality.

NUM8ERS is author Rachel Ward’s first novel, which made it to publication after catching the eye of a Chicken House editor at the Frome Festival. And, as a debut novel, NUM8ERS has a lot of good to recommend it, but is not without its unevenness and weaknesses. The strongest thing about Ms. Ward’s debut is in the strength of her characters. As a character study, NUM8ERS soars. I absolutely freaking *loved* how the characters were DIFFERENT from the suburbanite white kids one always reads about in YA novels. Jem is screwed up. Like, really screwed up in the head. But it’s incredibly believable, and compelling. If you saw your mother overdose on heroin and were shipped around from home to home, and could see the impending deaths of everyone around you once you made eye contact with them, you’d be screwed up too. Jem’s not likeable, nor is she “cute” or perky or smart or anything like that – she’s simply Jem. Quiet, sullen, overwhelmingly (yet understandably) negative Jem. And, in spite of her curmudgeonly exterior and at times vitriolic thoughts, she’s an eminently relatable, genuine character. A lot of the time, mainstream YA novels tend to stick with characterizations that safely fall around the same median – though there are variations, most heroines fall under the “safe and normal” category, i.e. pretty white girl, decent home life (besides the odd misunderstanding with family members/daddy or mommy issues), smart in school (or talented in some related arena), etc. Jem and her friend and love interest Spider (who is black, lanky, stinky, energetic and contagiously exuberant) are so real and different. They aren’t cliched – there’s no “outsiders with hearts of gold beneath jagged exterior” blandness here. Both characters have their own issues, and I loved that Ms. Ward doesn’t attempt to romanticize or idealize them in any way. They simply…are. The relationship between these two “misfits” is very distinct from anything I’ve read on the YA market at present; refreshingly so. Take for example this exchange in the classroom between Jem, Spider, and her teacher:

We put our things in our bags or stuffed them into pockets, and waited for the standard bollocking: “Unacceptable behavior…Letting yourselves down…Lack of respect…” But it didn’t happen.

Instead, he waked up and down between the desks, stopping and saying something to each of us before going on to the next one. “Unemployed.” “Checkout girl.” “Garbageman.” When he got to me, he didn’t even pause. “Cleaning lady,” he said and carried on walking. He worked his way back to the front, turned and faced us. “OK, how did that make you feel?”

We stared at our desks or out the window. It had made us feel exactly how he wanted us to feel. Like shit. We all knew what sort of futures were waiting for us after school, didn’t need a puffed-up little tit like him to remind us.

Then Spider blurted out, “I feel fine, sir. It’s just your opinion, isn’t it? It don’t mean shit. I can do anything I want, can’t I? […] Five years’ time, I’m gonna be cruising the streets in my black BMW, got some vibes on the sound system, got money in my pocket.” The other boys jeered.

McNulty looked at him witheringly. “And how, Dawson, are you going to do that?”

“Bit of this, bit of that, sir. Buying and selling.”

McNulty’s face changed. “Theft, Dawson? Drug dealing?” he said coldly. He shook his head. “I’m almost speechless, Dawson. Breaking the law, peddling in misery. Is that all you can aspire to?”

“It’s the only way any of us are going to get any cash, man. What do you drive, sir? That little red Astra in the parking lot? Teaching? Working for twenty years? I’m tellin’ you, I ain’t driving no Astra.”

“Sit down on your chair, Dawson, and shut up. Someone else, please. Jem, what about you?”

How could I possibly know what was going to happen to me? I didn’t even know where I was going to be living in a year’s time. Why was this man torturing us, making us squirm like this? I took a deep breath and said, as sweet as I could manage, “Me, sir? I know what I want.”

“Oh, good. Carry on.”

I made myself look him right in the eye. 12252023. How old was he now? Forty-eight? Forty-nine? He’d go just around the time he retired, then. On Christmas Day, too. Life’s cruel, isn’t it? Christmas spoiled for his family for the rest of their lives. Serve him right, the cruel bastard.

“Sir,” I said, “I want to be exactly…like…you.”

He brightened for a second, a half smile forming, then realized I was taking the mick. His face shut down, and he shook his head.

Jem’s voice as a narrator, and Spider’s too, are the strongest parts of this book. Also, stylistically, I loved that Jem would “break the fourth wall” – that is, directly address the reader.

But characters aside, on the plotting side, things were unfortunately weaker. The main conflict in the story, revolving around Spider and Jem’s fleeing from the police and taking refuge wherever they can makes NUM8ERS a thriller and a love story. While both of these genre elements are well written, it also meant there was little time (actually, no time) to explore the actually SF elements of the story. While I loved the premise and concept of seeing someone’s deathdate (which totally reminds me of Shinigami eyes from the epic Death Note manga. I love Death Note. Seriously.), NUM8ERS felt significantly lacking in the development of Jem’s particular “gift.” In contrast to another debut YA novelist, Jen Nadol, Ms. Ward does not explore the more interesting, philosophical implications of Jem’s capability – whereas in The Mark, Cassie’s ability to see a person’s impending death is explored to varying degrees (can you change someone’s death date, the ages-old question of fate versus free will, etc).

And, most egregiously, the ending of NUM8ERS was melodramatic, rushed, and contrived. Not a fan. BUT, that said, NUM8ERS has enough to recommend it, based on its characters alone. Ms. Ward has a forthcoming sequel next year, and I’m hoping that it will improve on the regretful low-note the first book left me with.

Notable Quotes/Parts: You can read the first chapter of NUM8ERS online via its Scholastic website HERE.

Additional Thoughts: Make sure to check out the official NUM8ERS website HERE. Also, you can see the book trailer below:

Rating: 7 – Very Good. In spite of its disappointing ending and lack of SF development, NUM8ERS has a lot going for it, especially if you’re looking for well-rounded characters outside the norm.


As promised, we have a giveaway! Up for grabs we have one GRAND PRIZE and two RUNNER-UP prizes!

Grand Prize: Dual Alarm Clock Radio for iPhone and iPod, and NUM8ERS book
Two Runner-up Winners: NUM8ERS book

The contest is open to addresses in the U.S. ONLY, and will run until Saturday, March 20th at 11:59 PM (PST). To enter, simply leave a comment here. Only ONE comment per person! Multiple entries will be automatically disqualified. Good luck!

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  • Helen M.
    March 1, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Fabulous give away. I am really excited about this book! Thanks!

  • Christie I
    March 1, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Yay! I have this book on my TBR shelf. I’d love a chance to win a copy. Thanks!

  • Alison
    March 1, 2010 at 7:01 am

    This sounds like an interesting book. Great giveaway!

  • Kate
    March 1, 2010 at 7:05 am

    I’d love to win this book! Great giveaway!!

  • Amanda
    March 1, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Awesome giveaway, ladies! *fingers crossed*

  • Sara
    March 1, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I’m excited about this book; I’d love to win it. Thanks!

  • katiebabs
    March 1, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Have this one and can’t wait to dig in and start reading.

  • Gillian
    March 1, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Wow, that sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it.

  • Sue
    March 1, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Looks good! I love the cover, too. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Rachel Bateman
    March 1, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Wow. The cover is awesome!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Teresa W.
    March 1, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I’ve been hearing alot about this one, sounds good!

  • Sue R
    March 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Awesome giveaway!!!! I love the book cover and the book sounds fantastic.

  • Lisa Richards
    March 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Sounds like an exciting read. Count me in.

  • Miss Marjie
    March 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

    This look positively fantastic. Book sounds very interesting. πŸ™‚

  • MinnChica
    March 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

    This sounds great. Thanks for the contest!
    Nicole S.

  • Reena Jacobs
    March 1, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Yay for giveaways!

  • Lexie C.
    March 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I remember when I first saw the title to this I thought it was tied in with the TV Series NUMB3RS XD but the book sounds way more interesting (though, I admit, David Krumholtz makes most things worthwhile at least).

  • Kearsten
    March 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I’m always up for teenagers with “powers”! Count me in, please!

  • Kelsey Oertwich
    March 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Thanks for the awesome contest! Hearing so much about this book, that this contest is really exciting! I have to admit, though, I’d rather win 2nd prize because I do not have either an iPhone or an iPod. I have an mp3, though, but no iPod.

    Thanks for the entry!
    Kelsey O

  • Stacy
    March 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    This book is at the top of my wishlist. Thanks for the contest!

  • joder
    March 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Great sounding book with an equally interesting review. I appreciate all the good/bad aspects you pointed out. I’m still hoping to read this because I enjoy characters that are different from what is normally seen.

  • Emily W
    March 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I would love to be entered in this contest! This book looks super good.

  • Jenn R
    March 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Please enter me in the contest. Numbers sounds great, I love the premise!

  • Dawn
    March 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I have this on my to buy list. I wanna win!

  • van p.
    March 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    would love to read Numbers, it sounds really interesting. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Alex
    March 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Sounds awesome! Great review :mrgreen:

  • CrystalGB
    March 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Numbers sounds great. I would like to read it.

  • Roxy
    March 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    That cover is so awesome. I really like the 8 in the middle of numbers.

    Anyway, count me in.

  • melissa @ 1lbr
    March 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    This book has intrigued me since I first saw that cover. I’d love to win a copy!

  • Erica
    March 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Numbers sounds like such an amazing book! I would love to be entered!!

  • Tiah
    March 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    *jumps around* Me! Pick me!

  • Elle
    March 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Numbers definitely sounds like an enjoyable read. I’d love to win a copy of the book. I’m intrigued by the idea of what more Jem could do with her gift. Short of stumbling across people who are about to die, it doesn’t seem to have much use. I suppose it could be even more frustrating if Jem does warn people of their impending death and it’s her warning that causes their death (ie: “you’re going to die next monday, don’t leave the house” and they die from carbon monoxide poisoning) Lots of potential for heartbreak with the power, but I can’t really see it could actually be used for good.

  • Cindy C.
    March 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Please count me in. I’ve been drooling for this book.

  • Danielle
    March 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Do enter me…

  • Tiffany M.
    March 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    This sounds pretty interesting. I hope the second book has a better ending than the first!

  • Lisa B.
    March 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I am so excited to read Num8ers! Please count me in.

  • Rosie Carlo
    March 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for the great giveaway. Sounds like an awesome book!!

  • Courtney
    March 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    I hope I get this book! It sounds great!

  • elizabeth
    March 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    would love to read this book, please enter me

    happy reading! πŸ™‚

  • Myra C.
    March 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Great givaway!Count me in, the book sounds great!!

  • Bella F.
    March 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    oh how I’ve been trying to win this book!lol
    I love the US cover with that red eye & matrix-ish background

  • Angie D
    March 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I would love to win this book!! My email is bangersis(at)msn(dot)com. I

  • willaful
    March 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I just bopped in with another “Lost” video I thought youy guys would like:

  • enyl
    March 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I foresee a competition inwhich my students rewrite the ending the endingfor Numbers

  • etirv
    March 1, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Please count me in!

  • Emily
    March 1, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Now this looks awesome. Especially after reading your review and about how different the characters are.

  • The Book Vixen
    March 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I’ve had this book on my wishlist for a while now. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and read it!

  • Sheila
    March 2, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Sounds intriguing!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  • Donna
    March 2, 2010 at 6:06 am

    My daughter would really like this book!


  • Cyndi R
    March 2, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Ive got to have this book, I lov Rachel Ward and her books Wish I Wish upon a star to win this contest thats fair for all.. πŸ˜‰

  • Amanda Isabel
    March 2, 2010 at 7:09 am

    This sounds great!
    Thanks! πŸ™‚

  • Michelle M
    March 2, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I’m always a goon for this type of book and I appreciate the great review (as always!). Thanks!

  • Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf
    March 2, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Great review. You pretty much covered all the issues I had with this one, with far more eloquence than I did with my review last year. πŸ™‚

  • Lisa
    March 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Please enter me in the contest! Thank you!

  • Carol M
    March 2, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    This sounds good! Please enter me! Thank you!

  • Jen D.
    March 2, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Great review. Thanks for the giveaway.


  • Rachael
    March 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    great review. sounds like an interesting book!

  • Sarah D. F.
    March 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Nice giveaway! I would love to be entered.

  • Rachel C.
    March 2, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Thanks so much for the giveaway, I’ve been wanting to read this one!

  • LiLi Ramos
    March 2, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway, I’d like to be entered! *seeing numbers, surreal*

  • Stephanie K.
    March 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I’d love to win, great giveaway!

  • Bethie
    March 3, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Please count me in. I have been hearing good things about this book and I love the cover.

  • Marie
    March 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway! book sounds awesome!

  • Lindsay Elizabeth
    March 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Sign me up.

  • Julie Swaney
    March 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I would love to win this book. It sounds really good.

  • Amanda L
    March 3, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    oo, thanks for the review! Definitely adding this to my to be read pile!

  • Kiki
    March 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Fabulous give away and review!

  • Marianna G.
    March 3, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Fantastic contest! The book sounds lovely~

  • GSM
    March 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Sounds great. Count me in, please. Thanks.

  • Kathryn
    March 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Looks interesting!

  • ktobias
    March 6, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Top of my to-read list at the moment. Sigh. There are so many promising books coming out this year! I already had 18 on my list for 2010 alone and I’m still adding to it!

  • Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books)
    March 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    I really want to read this book. It sounds so interesting and the cover is awesome!

    Thanks for the great contest!

  • Kate
    March 9, 2010 at 9:40 am

    This looks amazing. Please enter me.

  • sarac
    March 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    This looks like a great book!

  • Sarah
    March 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Damn, this book/forthcoming series looks interesting!

    And double damn, that prize is a big one!

  • Aik
    March 15, 2010 at 4:25 am

    I’d love to enter this contest! Thanks!

  • Anita Yancey
    March 16, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    This is a book I have been wanting to read. Been hearing great things about it. Please enter me. Thanks!

  • Amanda baird
    March 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this awesome contest! Great review for the book!

  • jennifer mathis
    March 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    oh I’d love to win a copy of this book.

  • Stella (Ex Libris)
    March 18, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Please enter me in this contest, would love to read Numbers!!

  • Anne G
    March 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I’m excited to read this book, it seems like it is unusual.

  • April Pope
    February 26, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I am completely obbessed with this book. Usually characters can read mines or have super strength, but Jem is unusually. My sister let me borrow it, but we have to give it back to the library. I really want my own copy.

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Book Giveaway: Numbers: The Chaos by Rachel Ward
    March 7, 2011 at 5:52 am

    […] year, I read and truly enjoyed Numbers by Rachel Ward. This year, Numbers: The Chaos is out, and it’s the second book in the series by a talented […]

  • Review: Num8ers by Rachel Ward and Giveaway | Smexy Books
    April 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

    […] Reviews: Wicked Little Pixie – 5/5 The Booksmugglers – 7/10 Book Love Affair – 4/10 […]

  • A Parent That Cares
    July 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    As a parent whose 15 year old daughter picked up this book from the public library in the youth section, I would like to point out that it contains a lot of material which is grossly inappropriate for anyone under the age of 18. Among other things, it includes an explicit sex scene involving a pair of underage teens. If this were a movie, it would definitely get an R rating if and only if the sex scene were removed. With that scene left in, someone would be serving jail time since such depictions are illegal in cinema. Rachel Ward may or may not be a pedophile, but her work is garbage.

  • nate
    February 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    great book! doing a book report right now on it!!

  • Jenessa
    February 21, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I read this book twice and loved it please enter me in the contest

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  • Anonymous
    January 30, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    what happens to spider?

  • Crystal garcia
    May 8, 2014 at 1:34 am

    I never read but I have really enjoyed this book!!!

  • Miguel M.
    January 21, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    So. I understand I’m like 6 years late, but can this count as an entry? Haha

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