Friday, January 28, 2011

I Am Number Four (aka: I'm desperately trying to keep my lunch down)

I’m struggling a little bit with this I Am Number Four thing. There’s been a ton of hype, obviously, and Alex Pettyfer taking off his shirt on Ellen today has helped generate even more buzz for the movie. I actually bought the book in August, before I knew about the Full Fathom Five controversy or James Frey’s involvement in the series. I thought about returning it, but, before I could, my 13 year-old daugher picked it up.

To describe my daughter as a reluctant reader would be an understatement. A year ago September, when I signed with my agent and finally fessed up to my family that I was writing, I asked my daughter: “If I write a book, will you read it?”

Her answer: *eyeroll* “Maybe…”

She started Harry Potter and lost interest after about 20 pages. I think she only got 10 pages into Twilight before I found it wallowing under her bed. She still hasn't read Personal Demons. So…when I realized she was three chapters into I Am Number Four, I really had no choice but to let her read it.

She loved it.

Now, I feel compelled to take her to the movie, because this is the very first time she’s read a book that was made into a movie before the movie came out.

But it makes me feel like a total traitor.

Personally, I haven’t read the book because I’m having such trouble stomaching the whole thing. But, I want to give Jobie Hughes a HUGE shout out for writing a story that finally captured my 13 year-old’s attention. It breaks my heart that someone whose moral standards are as questionable as James Frey was able to use his ill gotten gains to lure someone a talented as Jobie into his money making scheme.

But that’s the way of the world, unfortunately. Paraphrasing a Wall Street Journal article, James Frey hatched up his Full Fathom Five idea after he finished reading the last Harry Potter novel in 2007. This, quoted from that article: "Someone is going to replace Harry Potter," he [Frey] recalls thinking. "Maybe it'll be me." He obviously knew he wasn’t nearly talented enough to do it on his own, so he took advantage of other far more talented writers who were just desperate enough to go along.

I get that publishing is a business. We all hope to make money, and we’d all kill to be the next J.K. Rowling (who, you’ll notice, Frey didn’t give credit to either—a pattern with the man, apparently) but not by taking advantage of others.

So, I’m going to the movie. I won’t be buying popcorn, because I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to keep it down.

32 comments:

  1. I read and reviewed the book and I had the book in my reading pile for a while.

    After I was done reading about I learned it was through James fey..also along the lines of James Patterson..who other topic

    I found it to be a good story , and i admit I read it because the movie was coming out. Ther story is okay and clean.

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  2. I feel just as you do about this book. I wont be reading it. Just seeing it on the shelves at the book store makes me sick to my stomach. I always get the urge to pull it down and start my own book burning (not that I ever would, but there is a lil demon in me that would like to).

    I will see the movie, I hate to say. The movie really does look good and the movie addict in me can't turn away from a good action/sci-fi/supernatural flick. I will NOT see it in the theaters, the movie doesn't deserve that kind of money out of me. I will likely just get it off of Netflix, so that I can watch it with my dad.

    Btw, I love your article's label.

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  3. I had no idea Frey was involved in that series. Admittedly, I haven't done any investigation, but gads, what rock have I been living under? This saddens me to no end. I hate the idea of anyone, especially a talented writer, being used like this.

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  4. I'm actually struggling with if I should buy this book or not. The story looks intriguing but what James Frey has done sickens me too. I would love to support the actual author of this book, Jobie Hughes. I know if I purchase this book, Frey will be the one who benefits. I really don't want that to happen. However I do want support the publishing industry. I keep weighing the pros and cons in my head. I have a feeling if I bought the book, I wouldn't be able to put my feelings for James Frey aside.

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  5. Lisa- completely agree with you. I can't and won't read the book. The author who put the blood, sweat, tears, and elbow grease into the novel isn't getting a lick of credit. Your blog is the first that I'd even seen his real name and I was under the impression if the "real" author ever acknowledged that he was he'd be sued by Fathom Five for an absurd amount.

    I can't support something like that.

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  6. I read it before I knew about the James Frey thing but while the book was an OK read I think it will make for a corny movie.

    Honestly the only reason I would go to see that movie is if Alex Pettyfer takes the role of Jace in the City Of Bones movie. I would support the guy who acts as one of my fav characters.

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  7. I bought it on Audible before I knew it was the James Frey gimmick. I'm ashamed of myself. I needed to read it because my WIP is sci-fi, but now I wish I'd just gotten it from the library.

    I am glad your daughter liked it. Think of it as a gateway reading drug...now she can go on to bigger and better things like James Patterson's Daniel X series. Then the Percy Jackson series, maybe?

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  8. I read the book when it came out, before I found about James Frey and the Full Fathom Five stuff, and I enjoyed it. Now, like you, I'm torn. It's a good book, so Jobie Hughes should be proud of himself, but everything surrounding it just turns me off. I'd like to see where the series goes, but morally, I'm not sure if I can.

    The same goes for the movie. Alex Pettyfer is certainly some great eye candy and Teresa Palmer looks badass as #6, but I feel wrong seeing it.

    I'm not sure what I'll do at this point. Morally, it feels wrong, but part of me realizes it isn't going to make much of a difference for me to boycott the books and the movie.

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  9. Hi Lisa!
    I love that your daughter read the whole book.
    It's such a good feeling to see your children reading.
    I haven't bought it because of the whole Frey scamming Hughes out of any real $ for the book, the movie, etc.
    Love & Best Wishes to you & yours,
    Rob

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  10. I bought and read the book before the whole James Frey controversy. I didn't like it at all and didn't even review it. I found the characters flat and the story predictable.

    Despite that, I planned to see the movie in theaters because of Alex Pettyfer and my secret hope that the movie would be better than the book. However, with the whole James Frey thing, I don't know if I can sit through the whole thing. I figure I'll just wait until Netflix gets it and watch it for Alex, if that.

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  11. Thanks for the comments. I know this is sort of a hot-button topic, and with the way Frey scammed Oprah, it's no suprise AP was on Ellen instead. O_O

    Rob--I'm thrilled that she actually finished a book. It's the first chapter book she's finished in three years.

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  12. I did a post on this last month when the whole James Frey/I am Number 4 thing hit the net. I've read the book and thought it was good (not great) and will probably see the movie too. I agree James Frey is a snake (to hear his interviews and college seminars he sounds like a pompous jerk) but doesn't the person signing the contract share half the responsibility as well? I'm sure I'll get a lot of flack for making that comment because it looks like I'm defending him but I'm not. I just would like to hear Jobie Hughes take on the events, which are not readily available on the net.

    Glad your daughter found a book to read. Maybe she'll reach out to more books to read now she's hooked.

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  13. I feel like I've been living under a rock but I haven't been a serious bookworm since this October. What happened? I read I am number 4 and I liked it. I planned to see the movie. I didn't know about any drama until today.

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  14. Yay for the book capturing your daughter's interest!
    I've been pondering purchasing this, I didn't know about the controversy. I have to say, I'm about to go look it up to see why an author who writes a book can't say that he wrote the book. I'm feeling very niave.

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  15. From what I understand, the author who actually wrote the book was fully aware of what he was getting himself into, right?? As are all the writers who decide to work for Frey. They agree to 30-49% of the revenue, so it looks like Jobie will do just fine. I would love 30% of the revenue that's gonna come from this movie. Let's be real, it's a major shortcut on the road to publication and movie deals and while it is easy to criticize Frey, if we are gonna do that we need to criticize the authors who are selling out too and at a certain point it's just not worth it to keep criticizing everybody and the decisions these adults made. And everyone knows his name now anyhow, just as I am sure everyone will know the name of anyone else whose work hits it big from the Frey project. Do I like the man? Won't judge, I don't know him. But I do know I'm not gonna let any of the drama affect my decision on whether to read the book or see the movie.

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  16. Dana--no flack catching here, but you won't ever hear Jobie's take on this because James Frey will sue him under the terms of his contract if he speaks out or takes any sort of credit. He was probably young and desperate to be published, so he sold his soul. I agree that part of the responsiblity lies with him, but I also think desperation isn't conducive to the best decision making. He saw an opportunity to be fronted by a NYT Bestselling author and jumped without thinking in through. I believe he got $250 for writing the bk and less than 1% of net royalties.

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  17. Angie (Vampires and Tofu--I don't know James Frey either, so I am in no position to judge him personally. What I do know is, professionally, he put a memoir out, claming that it was factual, and made millions selling said memoir to the public when Oprah tagged it as a Book Club selection, only later, after he was caught, to admit that much of it was embellished. I don't think it's a stretch to call his morals into question.

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  18. Oh, I agree completely that his morals leave a LOT to be desired. But I also don't fully believe the writers have been taken advantage of. Of course all I know about the situation is what I have read in various articles and I am sure that's not the whole story. Ultimately, the real main thing here is that your daughter read a book and loved it. And THAT is awesome. A love of reading is one of the best things we can hope for our kids to have =)

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  19. I agree that James Frey is a slime bag and that the author of this book has to live with the consequences of his choices. However, if this type of behavior is excepted or rewarded, it will only encourage other companies to do the same. What if this type of behavior becomes the norm? A writer would become nothing more then someone in a factory trying to pump out the latest fab for shit pay. The readers would only have talentless work after talentless work to choose from. This company has already been rewarded by all of the press its received and by the companies who leaped at the chance to make this movie. Unless we as readers and as authors show how we feel about this sort of behavior, there is no reason for other companies not to do the follow suit.

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  20. Angie--True. And, in the end, without Frey's backing, I am Number Four would probably not have ended up where it is, so, for that, I guess maybe I owe him. I'm sure I'll be buying the sequel. I also just found out that Timothy Olyphant is in the movie, so where everyone else is going to oogle AP, I'll be staring at TO and drooling. =)

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  21. Wow, I had no idea about all this. I've never even heard of James Frey. I own the book and have read it, but now I feel bad that me purchasing the book has benefited him, and not the actual author. I'm not going to be able to look at the book the same way again. Nor will I recommend it either, I think.

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  22. Ugh. I read it before the James Frey link to it was revealed. It's not a bad story, in fact it reads like a decent screenplay. I missed the in-depth characters a good story would normally have but I will say this -- the premise hooked me. The execution just wasn't fully there. My 12 yo is dying to read it and I figure it's a good way to talk to him about "selling your soul" and people who take advantage of others. I wish Frey would do the right thing (and give credit where credit is due) but unlike other "demons", he seems to be unable to reform. Thanks for posting this Lisa.

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  23. Sophie--In that WSJ article, it also said that the movie rights essentially sold before the book, so the screenplay was done before the book went into production. They tweaked the book to match the screenplay. Interesting. And, I understand your attachment to AP =) #COB

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  24. I'm torn. I've found that a lot of people enjoyed the book and have wanted to read it. However, with all this other crap mixed in, I don't want to give James Frey any more money. Like you, I'll probably go to the movie (and maybe borrow the book from the library), but I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep the popcorn down. Although it does make me feel better that I'm not the only one unsure of what to do.

    Congrats on your daughter reading though. That's a wonderful accomplishment, if nothing else, but I'll give the credit to Jobie Hughes not James Frey (I'm sure he won't mind;))

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  25. Like others, I can't believe I didn't here about all of this until now!! Thanks for informing me. It's sad when someone takes advantage of another person's talent just because they can.

    However, congrats on your daughter reading it till the end! I can't believe she hasn't read your book! "To each their own" I suppose :) Thanks for sharing!!

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  26. Oh gosh, how embarrassing!! On the comment above this one, I totally meant to put "hear" instead of "here" *crawling under rock now* lol

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  27. I'm about to read this (in time for the movie) and I have to say that I really want to see the movie. I too bought the book before I learnt about the shennanigans behind the scenes and it makes me feel sick about it. I hope EVERYONE learns about it and I wish the real author every success in their next SOLO venture ;)

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  28. I haven't read it yet, but my 13 year old son loved it. I had no idea James Frey was involved with it. That's so disappointing. Now I don't know if I want to read it. Your post was well said, Lisa!!

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  29. I wanted to read it until the James Fray thing. I won't buy the book, review it, give it away, or see the movie.

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  30. I actually read I Am Number Four before I knew about this whole controversey and I really loved the book. When I found out, it didn't change anything because it was a mistake he made for another book. It actually upsets me that people refuse to read the book because it's by this author, you people don't know what you are missing! I'm excited to see the movie too. I'm not saying I like this author, because I don't, he shouldn't have lied about his other book, but give I Am Number Four a chance! Great books are great books no matter who wrote them.

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  31. I'm torn on this one as well. While I've heard rave reviews about it, and it does sound like something I'd enjoy, I don't feel right about endorsing it in any way shape or form. Even checking it out from the library feels like some sort of endorsement... If I do read it (sometime in the far future) perhaps I'll review it with links to the story behind it. As for the movie, I definitely won't be seeing it in theaters, but I might break down if/when a friend rents it. Such a shame when a story is tarnished like this.

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  32. JAMES FREY WILL PAY..HE DID NOT WRITE THE BOOK OR DID HUGHS. THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT. FOR THREE YEAR MY BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS WENT INTO MY STORY ABOUT SARA AND HER BELOVED FROM A FAR.

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