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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read the first nine chapters HERE 
Read an interview with Allen Zadoff 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Allen Zadoff was born in Boston, Mass and went on to live in upstate New York, Manhattan, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. A former stage director, he is the author of the Boy Nobody series as well as several acclaimed novels including Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, a winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and a YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults. Sony Pictures and Overbrook Entertainment have optioned his Boy Nobody series. Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. He currently teaches writing in Los Angeles and is at work on his next book.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: 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. 

FORMAT/INFO: Boy Nobody is 337 pages long divided over seventy-seven non-numbered & un-titled chapters. The entire story is told from a first-person narrative via the protagonist Boy Nobody. Boy Nobody has a self-contained plot and is the first book in the Boy Nobody series.

June 11, 2013  marked the North America hardback and e-book publication of Boy Nobody via Little Brown Books.

ANALYSIS: Boy Nobody came on to my radar courtesy of Maja over at The Nocturnal Library. It was her scintillating review that got me to buy this book straight away and I dove in to it with very high expectations. The book’s blurb details a story about a boy assassin who transforms himself every time for a mission and is now trying to figure out what happened to him in the past. This was an interesting take on the child soldier/spy phenomenon and I wanted to see how the author handled it within the confines of the YA genre.

First things first, even though this book is a YA one, the violence and action are way outside’s the usual parameters of the genre. However it never seems over the top or even corny in any manner. Secondly I was certainly wowed by the main plot and its main character let me explain why. This book very strongly explores the horrendous phenomenon of child soldiers and in this case extrapolates this scary fact into an assassin story. By the means of this story, the author carefully shines a light on the concept of child (teenage) soldiers. Now this is a horrendous situation that has been the focus of many non-fiction books (A Long Way Gone) and movies (Blood Diamond) What I thought was brilliant was that the way the author showed psychological manipulation that has resulted in creation of Boy Nobody. The fact that the main protagonist and all of his handlers never call him by his original name thereby showing the focus in erasing his past identity. I thought this was a very good way to highlight these manipulative efforts and the effect they had on the subject. There’s some more stuff revealed about the protagonist’s past but that falls into the plot spoiler category so I’ll be refraining from talking about it.

In regards to characterization, the author very crucially shows the story happening through a first-person narrative lens and we get to see all of it via our unnamed boy assassin. The author absolutely nails down the characterization as we get a teenage viewpoint but without the teenage angst or the hormonal imbalance. The unnamed narrator of this story is trained to be an assassin and behaves in line with his training entirely. The book is about a mission that the protagonist gets in which he’s supposed to target a politician while getting close to his progeny. I loved how the author made this premise so believable and of course to back it up provided a reasonable explanation as to how the main character goes about trying to accomplish his mission.

Plus there’s the story background, which is slowly revealed and there’s a lot left in the story to be illuminated. The author has also planned some twists that come out of the left field and make the story that much more interesting. This story operates at a breakneck pace and from the start of the story absolutely refuses to let go of the accelerator pedal. While it opens up with a mission, it quickly morphs into something else entirely and then there are the plot twists that keep the readers from getting bored. I thought some of the twists while seemingly predictable end up being quite interesting. The climax absolutely is a blast in regards to character revelations and sets up the series quite fabulously. I absolutely can’t wait for the author to write and release the next book, as I want to learn more about Boy Nobody’s past and how he deals with it in the present.

So with so many superlatives about this book, are there any drawbacks to this book? In my opinion, there are almost next to none. Some YA readers might not be too enamored by the gray morality espoused by the protagonist but it is very much line with his training and the scope of the book. I was quite enamored by this story and therefore I couldn’t find much to complain about it.

CONCLUSION: Boy Nobody is an absolute thriller gem, it has all the characteristics needed such as quick pace, terrific protagonist, intriguing plot & a twisted climax. As far as thriller’s go, this tale hits the bull’s eye in almost every category. Allen Zadoff has given us a series that promises a lot and I’ll be sure to read all the rest of the books to see how he fulfills the promises laced within this book. Boy Nobody is a gem plain and simple, DO NOT MISS IT!


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