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By the Numbers – YA books with Numbers in the Titles

from flickr user Erin Watson

School’s back in session, and that means many of us are having to use numbers again — whether it’s in mathematics, science, or some other class where numbers are used.

In looking at YA fiction that’s come out this so far this year, I’ve noticed that in addition to the many one-word titles (Starters, Above, Struck, Momentum, Quarantine, etc.), there are also a lot of titles containing numbers. Being a curious librarian and a trivia geek, I looked up the numbers to see if their meanings might have any correlation to the plots of the books. Unfortunately, I can’t say I found any, but I did discover lots of fascinating (at least to me) random facts and tidbits about numbers from mathematics, science, philosophy, literature, and other disciplines (all gleaned from Wikipedia) that I thought I’d share with you.

Zero by Tom Leveen: An aspiring artist, who refers to herself jokingly as “Zero,” loses scholarship money, and her future art career looks as bleak as the paintings by her idol Dali.

  • Records show that the ancient Greeks seemed unsure about the status of zero as a number. They asked themselves, “How can nothing be something?” leading to philosophical and, by the Medieval period, religious arguments about the nature and existence of zero and the vacuum.

First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky: Two lonely souls, Gray mourning his twin sister’s death, and Dyan, a free spirit, find that opposites do attract and fall in love.

This One Time With Julia by David Lampson: After Joe’s twin brother Alvin disappears, Joe goes on road trip with Alvin’s girlfriend and gets involved in murder.

  • “First” is the ordinal form of the number 1. By definition, 1 is the probability of an event that is almost certain to occur.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: Taylor’s family gets along, but they don’t spend a lot of time together until Taylor’s dad gets horrible news. They spend one last summer together and get a second chance to know one another again.

Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates: This book examines the lives of group of teens and how they cope after one of them commits suicide.

  • “Second” is the number 2 written as an ordinal. Two is the smallest and the first prime number, and the only even one (for this reason it is sometimes called (“the oddest prime”).

Blood Ninja III – the Betrayal of the Living by Nick Lake: In this series finale, the fate of feudal Japan is at stake.

  • In Vietnam, there is a superstition that considers it bad luck to take a photo with three people in it; it is professed that the person in the middle will die soon.

The Final Four by Paul Volponi: Looks at how four players make it to the NCAA finals in basketball.

Four Secrets by Margaret Willey: Three tormented teens plan to stop an evil bully, but it all goes horribly wrong.

  •  In basketball, the number four is used to designate the Power Forward position, often referred to as “the four spot”.

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons: A dystopian story where the Bill of Rights has been revoked; Ember’s mother is arrested for violating one of the Moral Codes — and Ember has a crush on the boy who arrests her mom.)

  • The most destructive known hurricanes rate as Category 5 on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, and the most destructive known tornadoes rate an F-5 on the Fujita scale.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil: An Agatha Christie-like mystery of teens being murdered on an isolated island.

  • The Roman numeral for ten is X (which looks like two V’s — the Roman numeral for 5 — put together); it is thought that the V for five is derived from an open hand (five digits displayed). Incidentally, the Chinese word numeral for ten, is a cross, too.

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne: A survival tale of teens stuck in chain superstore after a devastating hailstorm and chemical spill occur.

  • Age 14 is the earliest that the emancipation of minors can occur in the U.S.

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic: A 17-year-old teen travels around the country to try to make a difference in the time he has left.

  • Eighteen, aside from 0, is the only number that equals twice the sum of its decimal digits. Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 was originally named Catch-18 because of the Hebrew meaning of the number (chai, “life”), but was changed to avoid confusion with another war novel, Mila 18.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick: Two teens, both from different backgrounds, have a connection to 21 and both love basketball.

  • Twenty-one is a variation of street basketball in which each player, of which there can be any number, plays for him or her self only; the name comes from the requisite number of baskets.

37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order) by Kekla Magoon: All sorts of things can happen in the four days left of a teen’s sophomore year before summer vacation.

  • Thirty-seven is the only two-digit number in base 10 whose product, when multiplied by two, subtracted by one, and then read backwards, equals the original two digit number: 37×2=74, 74-1=73, 73 backwards is 37.

52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody: An irresponsible rich girl is forced to work regular jobs in order to get her inheritance.

  • Fifty-two is the approximate number of weeks in a year, the number of white keys on the piano in a C major scale, and the number of cards in playing deck, not counting jokers or advertisement cards.

A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis: The second in a dystopian SF series focusing on a group of people on the spaceship Godspeed, where chaos is beginning to take over and they must find a way to get off the ship.

  • Not counting spaces, the text printed on 136 pages of an Encyclopedia Britannica, or 600 pages of pulp paperback fiction, contains approximately one million characters.

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent

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Sharon Rawlins

Sharon is the Youth Services Specialist at the NJ State Library in Trenton, NJ

One Comment

  1. An interesting trend to notice, I must say. Also. Some of those books look AWESOME. *Runs to TBR pile and makes it bigger.*

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