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Literature / Numbers

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For the Biblical book, see Book of Numbers.
Numbers (also stylized as Num8ers) is a young adult novel series by Rachel Ward. It consists of Numbers (2008), Numbers 2: The Chaos (2010) and Numbers 3: Infinity (2011).

For as long as she can remember, Jem has always been able to see the numbers. When she looks into a person's eyes, she sees a number unique to that person. When she was really young, she would proudly recite the numbers of people passing her and her mother by on the street, until her mother would angrily ask her to stop, as Jem looked into her eyes and saw her number: 10102001. Several years later, she would see a man in a scruffy suit write it down on a piece of paper: Date of Death: 10/10/2001. From then on, Jem knew the numbers' significance: they were the dates of death for the persons whose eyes they were paired with. Since then, Jem has been shuttled off from foster home to foster home, all the while avoiding eye and emotional contact with other people because of the burden her ability has on her. But then she meets Spider, a fifteen year old with little time left, and becomes closer to him than she'd planned.


Numbers provides examples of:

  • Bedlam House: After Spider's death, Jem is admitted to a psychiatric ward and drugged up and sedated. However, Jem doesn't express any positive or negative thoughts about it, except for relief that she can no longer see the numbers after she spends a while there.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Jem firmly believes this. Justified, though, because her mother was a junkie, causing their poverty-ridden existence, Jem's mother's death by drug overdose, and Jem's subsequent years in foster homes.
  • Eyes Always Averted: Jem always makes an effort to avoid making eye contact with any person she interacts with or even passes by because when she does look them in the eye, she sees their number, which happens to foretell their date of death.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Spider and Jem, respectively.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: After a while, Karen becomes disabled by a barrage of strokes and has to be cared for by Jem, who she asks to kill her to spare her a life of misery.
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  • Interrupted Suicide: Jem decides to jump off the abbey roof in the belief that it will prevent Spider's death by eliminating the person who sees his number. Spider, though, stops her Just in Time. He himself dies shortly after doing this.
  • Letters 2 Numbers:
    • One set of covers for the series has the title written as "Num8ers". Another set writes it using a sideways "2" for the "N" and a backwards "3" for the "E".
    • One cover for book 2, The Chaos, uses a zero for the "O".
    • One cover for book 3, Infinity, uses "1"s for the "I"s.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Numbers was published in February of 2010 and takes place in the last months of that same year.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: Adam's drawing of him and his mother Jem. It seems innocent enough, until Adam says that the writing above her head isn't the word "Mummy"... it's her special number.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Spider has been raised by his grandmother Val.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. McNulty
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Adam, the child that Jem was impregnated with after having sex all of two times with Spider.
  • Twisted Christmas: Doesn't happen in-story, but Jem foresees one of these for Mr. McNulty's family when Mr. McNulty dies on Christmas Day in 2023.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The whole reason Jem has become a loner. She can't handle the idea of becoming close to someone, only to be unconsciously counting down the days until they die.

Numbers 2: The Chaos provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Published in 2010, takes place in 2026.
  • The Backwards Я: One version of the cover replaces the "E" in "The" with a "ε" (lower case epsilon).
  • Generation Xerox: Adam bears a strong physical resemblance to his father Spider, is raised by Val just as Spider was, and has developed an attitude toward his ability to see peoples' numbers that is very similar to that his mother had.
  • In the Blood: Adam has inherited his mother's ability to see people's dates of death.
  • Raised by Grandparents: In this case, Adam is being raised by his great grandmother, Val, because of Jem's death.

Alternative Title(s): Numbers 2 The Chaos