The numbers are a date: the date of the person’s death. When Jem looks at people she see their numbers. One could describe such an ability as a gift but, understandably, Jem sees it as a burden. Like it or not, she knows when your number is up.
Jem is a white, 5ft-nothing teenager. Her dad was never in the picture and her mother, it seems, was a prostitute junkie who died of an overdose when Jem was seven. It was Jem who found her body. Passed from foster parent to foster parent, Jem feels her life is going nowhere.
Then Spider comes into her life. Skinny, black and 6ft 4in, he’s a classmate who spends little time in class. Spider’s days are certainly numbered, but he and Jem have fun together on a day out in London … until Jem sees a whole group of people with the same numbers in their eyes, queuing for a turn, ironically enough, on the London Eye. And the numbers are that day’s date. With a sense of impending doom, she and Spider flee the area…. This is the start of a story with many highs and lows for Jem and Spider.