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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

A thrilling ride! Slick assassin novel for the YA market

This was a great read, gobbled up quickly. I found myself drawn in, holding my breath at various key points.
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The narration has a breathless quality, being first person present tense and quite spare in style. There are no superfluous descriptions. There is nothing flowery or ornate about the writing. It's just matter of fact, precise, cool - which gels perfectly with the character of a trained assassin. Interestingly, although there is a certain coolness and distance to the voice, it's easy to engage with him and root for him.

Boy Nobody is a teen assassin, working for a shadowy agency. Through the course of the novel, via flashbacks, we learn something of his past: his appointment, his training, but there is still clearly a lot we don't know about him (perhaps in future books we'll learn more?). The novel introduces us to his life and submerses us into the experience of a particular engagement. The more I learnt of his background, the more he had my sympathy, despite his morally questionable way of life. The novel makes clear that, for all the black and white thinking - and lack of questioning - he's trained for, life is all about the greys and I think the novel would make a great class reader for some interesting debates on morality and responsibility.

That said, it's first and foremost a great read, and teens will enjoy it. Although it's about the life of an assassin, it isn't gory and it does prompt moral debate, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to teens of all ages.

From the author's website:

BOY NOBODY
HE IS NOTHING. THE MISSION IS EVERYTHING.

They needed the perfect soldier: one who could function in every situation without fear, sympathy or anger; who could assassinate strangers and then walk away emotionally unscathed. So they made Boy Nobody-a teen with no name or history. The perfect soldier.

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 reminds him of 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.

****************
Published 23 May by Orchard
Find more info at Goodreads
My grateful thanks to the publishers for the amazing proof pack they sent me (note: this has not influenced my review, despite its undeniable fabulosity)


1 comment:

  1. I'm really looking forward to reading this book. We're lucky enough to have a few copies to giveaway too, and when I was putting the post together, I kept thinking how great it sounded. I love your question about the iPhone. That's so original and tells us so much about a person or character!
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