by Allen Zadoff
To be published by Little, Brown
on June 11, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Connect with the author: website : Twitter.
Summary (from Goodreads:) 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 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, and moves on to the next target. But when he's assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter seems so much like him; the mayor smells like his father. And when memories and questions surface, the Program is 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.I have two teen reviewers who stop by now and then and one of them is my special guest today. You might remember him as the one who reviewed Revolution 19. Just like the Terminator, he's baaaack.
When I saw this book offered up on NetGalley, I thought of him. He's a teenager addicted to video games who can sometimes be persuaded to pick up a book. He still wishes to remain anonymous -- he's kind of a Boy Nobody himself.
Me: Can we talk about that book I gave you to read over spring break?
BN: Which book?
Me: The one about the boy who kills people? I thought it would be perfect for you.
BN: Because of my homicidal tendencies?
Me: No. Because it's about a kid around your age who lives in an apartment all alone, with no parents. And he kills people.
BN: He kills them with a pen.
Me: Isn't it a poison pen? And you know that the pen is mightier than the sword. (laughs)
BN: Your jokes are terrible.
Me: So you always tell me. What did you like about the book?
BN: Some parts were good. Like the action scenes. But the characters were pretty one dimensional.
BN: I guess the main character was supposed to be enigmatic. What about the love interest? The girl?
BN: The one who pretends not to be interested in the assassin kid and then, before his four day mission is even over, throws herself at him?
Me: Uh, yeah. That one.
BN: That's not even remotely realistic.
Me: I agree that their relationship seemed … sudden. And that their conversations weren't exactly romantic. "You don't know me." "I don't want to know you." She seemed to me like the kind of girl that other girls dislike.
Me: Never mind. I liked Erica.
BN: The drunk girl?
Me: I decided not to hold that against her. And I liked Howard. Every book needs a computer nerd. When he thought the main character was a vampire, I cracked up.
BN: You would.
Me: My favorite parts of the book were the way that Boy Nobody communicates with his handlers. The YouTube videos, the phone apps. That was pretty cool.
BN: Yeah. But did he have to kill all his targets with a pen?
Me: I did wonder if he killed all those people with the same pen. That thing is a biohazard.
BN: I just wanted some variety in the killing. You know, maybe push someone out a window for a change.
BN: Strangle them.
Me: Right. I got it.
BN: Burn their house down. La casa incendiara.
Me: That's what they're teaching you in Spanish class? And for the record, I think he did break someone's neck once. Maybe he couldn't find the pen. Okay, what about the ending? I was pretty surprised by the fact that he [spoiler redacted.]
BN: Yeah, but I never really cared that much about the characters, so …
Me: I also thought that the writing was pretty basic. Either the narrator was just a terse kind of guy, or the book was written at a lower reading level than most of the stuff I review.
BN: Or maybe you should stop reading kids' books.
My verdict: If you like a fast-paced book with a lot of action, give Boy Nobody a try. I think it would particularly appeal to reluctant teen readers and/or action/adventure fans who enjoy stuff like the Alex Rider series and whose parents don't mind the PG-13 content (two cut-away sex scenes and some not-too-graphic violence.)
If you love cloak and dagger stuff, be sure to check out one of my most viewed posts of all time: If You Like YA Books About Spies, Assassins and Secret Agents.