Monday, August 12, 2013

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.
                   Emily Dickinson

Boy Nobody insinuates himself into the lives of his targets. Gains the trust of someone close. Comes complete with a plausible backstory. Leaves quietly after the mission is accomplished. No family. No friends. No attachments. No questions asked.

The ultimate assassin. And only a teenager.

A new city. A new name. A new cover. Coded directions from “Mother” and “Father.”  A new mission, but every mission has the same mission: eliminate a target who threatens the safety and security of the United States. That’s why The Program exists. That’s why Boy Nobody exists. That’s why Zach is Boy Nobody. And this time Boy Nobody is “Ben.”

But this time something is different. Cherchez la femme? Absolutely. What better way to gain access to the mayor of New York City than through his daughter, Sam? Except Sam insinuates herself into the life of “Ben” as skillfully as he insinuates himself into hers. “Ben” finds himself the hunted as well as the hunter. His façade starts to crack. What happens to the ultimate assassin when he starts to question himself, his mission, and The Program itself?

Allen Zadoff knows how to build a plot—Boy Nobody is a zipline, speeding you toward the conclusion. “Ben” is a compelling antihero, a teen whose bad breaks may have broken him badly (yes, I am writing this just before the new season of Breaking Bad). I devoured this thriller, and I imagine many of my students will this fall as well. And unlike most thrillers, which may excite while reading but fade quickly, the moral questions raised by Boy Nobody linger in my mind still.

Side note: I would give anything for the sequel to be called Boy Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition.

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