Name: I Am Not A Number
Author: Lisa Heathfield
They promised to make the country better for everyone. They didn’t promise this.
The Traditionals have been voted to lead the country, winning people over with talks of healing a broken society, of stronger families and safer streets. They promised a happier future for everyone. They didn’t promise this.
When Ruby is swept up with protesters from the opposition, her life is changed forever. Locked in a prison camp far from home and with her belongings taken from her, she’s now known by the number 276. With horror escalating in the camp, Ruby knows that she has to get her family out – and let the world know what’s happening.
This book was A LOT.
It follows a 15 year old called Ruby and her family as they are sent to a re-education camp in what seems to be a futuristic Britain (I was a little confused.) This was a pretty original storyline… although the author seemed to have just PG’d so many aspects of the Holocaust that I wasn’t sure why she hadn’t set it in Nazi Germany. But the whole ‘dystopian England’ thing was a fresh take, and I thought that some of the characters were really well written. Key word: SOME.
Ruby really irritated me sometimes. I thought that her reaction to what happened to her was realistic – which was nice for a change. She acted how a 15 year old honestly would! Although the author may have got a bit too excited with the whole 15 year old girl thing, seeing as there were whole pages dedicated to how worried Ruby was that her boyfriend was making eyes at another girl. And I get that she may have been occupied with that in another setting but seriously. Priorities!
That leads me onto my next point – I’m honestly not sure what the age range for ‘I Am Not A Number’ is. As we’ve already established, Ruby is 15, so you’d think that it was aimed at 11 or 12 year olds. And yeah, it was a bit tame for a YA but by the end this book was CLEARLY not for 11 year olds. (I was slightly traumatised by the end.) The back did say ‘Contains Adult Themes’, but this can literally mean anything…
My Top Tips For Translating ‘Contains Adult Themes’
- Go off the size. If the warning is literally in the tiniest font, covered by the barcode (and generally published by someone like ‘Puffin’) the book may have a side character in a relationship, but otherwise you should be safe.
- HOWEVER, if the warning is larger, by a more well known YA author or the title hints at Not So Fun Stuff (I really should have thought about this before buying ‘All the Places I’ve Cried in Public‘), you have been warned.
I also wasn’t sure exactly where ‘I am Not a Number’ is set. At first, I just assumed your typical dystopian YA setting (see The Extinction Trails) but this sort of fell apart after the first Harry Potter mention. Yes, you heard me correctly. And then the author seemed to make up her mind about the setting and we were getting Cornwall holidays and 2000s bands all over the place. I guess introducing it slowly was a good way to build up the setting but I still want my post apocalyptic wasteland! 😦
Finally, what I most liked about this book was honestly how terrifyingly close to home it hit. Despite moaning about all the Harry Potter references (ugh) , this future version of England truly seemed only a few dodgy governments away and it really worked. I also loved a lot else, from how much diversity was represented, to the citations at the start of the chapters and the surprisingly inspirational quotes throughout. So, in spite of preferring a stronger story line and maybe a bit less ‘teenage-ness’, I want to try Lisa Heathfield’s other book Paper Butterflies and I honestly enjoyed I Am Not a Number. I think you will too.
What are you reading at the moment? Have you tried this one? Or have you simply got a book to recommend (song recommendations also excitedly accepted) ? Please like and le tme know in the comments section!