Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff
Synopsis: They needed the perfect assassin.
Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die-of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.
But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.
My thoughts: Boy Nobody is a serious win.
First off, I’d never heard of it before. My sister mentioned wanting to read it once, but that’s the only time I ever saw it until I read it. Somehow that made it even better–this book hiding out in a corner I’ve never seen–when I found it and flew through it.
I feel I’ve heard books boast that their characters are the ‘teenage Jason Bourne’ more than once, and I’ve yet to find one that lives up to that (because I really love Jason Bourne/crime/assassin/are they good or bad stories) until I read Boy Nobody. My biggest concern was that the plot would be too predictable while trying way to hard to be edgy. It wasn’t. Of course, there were aspects about ‘The Program’ that weren’t my favorite, but I was really intrigued by Ben’s relationship with his so called Mom and Dad. The plot was fast-paced and never, ever slowed, which just added to the thrill of a successful thriller novel, and there were some serious left turns I didn’t see coming. It was awesome. And that opening scene? Holy crap, that’s a way to start a novel.
I’m a sucker for a well-rounded protagonist–especially the back and forth, possibly mentally unstable,misunderstood antihero type, the type that kills people for a living but you can’t help identifying with and rooting for. Call me crazy, I know, but if you’re into that kind of thing too then you’d love Ben (or is that his name? Just another cover? Can you see why I love this?). Points to Allen Zadoff for creating an amazing balance between the blank calculation of an assassin and the remains of a teenage boy poking out.
My only complaint: the instalove. I hate instalove. Yuck. Thankfully, this book wasn’t so bad, but our girl Sam is so cool and smart and takes no crap, I was kind of annoyed when she and Ben clicked so fast (or so she thought. Assassin work, right? Or is it? Again, can you see why I love this?). Like, come on, girl. I know he’s the mysterious cute new kid who might not treat you like everyone else at your school, but at least give it a week or two.
Now for the highlight of the novel for me: the writing. Ah, I LOVED the writing style. Chapters were never more than, like, ten pages–if that–and most of the sentences were short. It made reading go by fast and kept me alert, because we were always onto the next thing. I found myself thinking like an assassin: noticing the details, staying aware of the surroundings, always trying to stay one or seven steps ahead. Ah, it was so good. So perfect for the book and character. Not only did it add immensely to the plot and genre, but it capitalized on all the best parts of Ben. It sucked you into his world and made you a part of it, a world that I partly recognized on my own and got chills at the thought that someone as deadly as Ben lived in it.
Of course, the ending leaves it all up to the sequel, which is fine, I guess–part of me thinks it would’ve made a great stand alone, but I understand the pull of a series and the avenues of exploration for Ben. I’m not jumping at the chance to read the sequel just because I know it probably won’t be as good as the first, but it’s nice to know it’s out there, melted into the shadows, molding into society, pretending to be a part of it…just for the mission. Actually, that’s Ben.
Rated 4.7/5 for nailing a teenage assassin protagonist, throwing me for more than a few loops, and a writing style that kept the suspense all on its own.