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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff (Review)

Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Action
Publication.Date  June 11th 2013
Published By:  Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
WebsiteAllen Zadoff 

Boy Nobody on Goodreads
My review copy:Review copy provided by the publisher via Net Galley
Where to get:

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.

In this action-packed series debut, author Allen Zadoff pens a page-turning thriller that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping, introducing an utterly original and unforgettable antihero.

She sat me down, and gave me a choice. I could join my parents, or I could join her. The Program.
That's what she called it. The Program.
She described it to me in the most basic terms. I would become a soldier. I would be trained physically and mentally. I would do things most boys only do in video games.
Whatever I decided, my life was no longer my own.
I don't feel anything. Not true. I feel cold, I feel hungry, I feel the fabric of a new shirt rubbing against my skin, and I feel gravel beneath my feet. But those are sensations, not feelings. I had feelings once, too. I think I did. But that was a long time ago. That was before. 

     I gotta tell you guys, for the most part I wasn't very impressed with this book. I thought some of the developments were less than likely and requiring a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief. The way the story was unfolding, I was prepared for a cheesy happy ending, a change of the character's heart, some big revelations and eye-opening moments. And I was very surprised when I didn't get any of that. The story went in a totally different direction from what I expected, leaving me with my jaw dropped (in a good way), and the ending itself was actually pretty cool. I am very excited to see where Allen Zadoff will take this story in the next instalment.

     Benjamin (it's not his real name, but let's call him that for now) joined The Program when he was only twelve. His parents were killed by the very same people that were now training him to become the perfect assassin. And he's been killing people deemed traitors to the country ever since. I loved learning about the ins and outs of his assignments, the secret codes and encrypted messages. Some of that stuff was pretty cool and clever (like when Ben would explain how he gets new assignments, and what code The Mother and The Father use to tell him when it starts, etc.). I also thought that the idea of a child assassin was both totally ridiculous and kind of brilliant at the same time. The cover stories were great, but I found it a bit hard to believe that a 14 year old kid would be able to kill adults without running into any problems or having second thoughts - especially after being close friends with their children. I frequently rolled my eyes or shook my head at how conveniently things always happened, and how easy it seemed to accomplish missions that were seemingly impossible, but at the same time, I gotta admit, it was pretty thrilling and entertaining. 

     Zadoff's writing style isn't exactly amazing, but given the nature of the book (a fast-paced action thriller) I guess it's not exactly shocking. Consisting of short, simple sentences (sometimes repeated), Boy Nobody is a bit choppy and tedious to read. The simple sentences and short phrases produce a feeling of speed and swiftly moving action, yes, but they also become boring rather quickly, as there is nothing to contrast them with (no inner monologues, reflections, or lengthy descriptions). Again, I realize that this isn't a melodrama or a character study, but I would have loved to get a better insight into Ben's character. Little to no time is dedicated to his thoughts and feelings, and even when we do get a glimpse of his personality and emotions, there's nothing really there to make us sympathize with him. Or root for him. In fact, he comes across as a cold, calculating killing machine, who follows instructions blindly and (almost) never asks any questions. Personally, I found it very hard to connect with him.

     All things considered, Boy Nobody is a pretty good action thriller for fans of Jason Bourne series. Fast-paced, dark and twisty, it's definitely an entertaining read. But if you're looking for a more in depth analysis of a killer, you will probably be disappointed. Most likely you won't find yourself very emotionally involved, either. But hey, it's a fun and quick read, and I don't know about you, but I certainly need a book like that every once in a while. Plus, the ending is incredibly well written and thoroughly surprising, and I do believe that this series has a great potential to grow into something really meaningful, if not ground breaking.

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