- Author: Allen Zadoff
- Published: May 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Category: Young Adult, Thriller
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 to die — of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.
The story is narrated in the first person by the sixteen year old assassin. Integrated into a shadowy organisation called The Program at twelve, after his parents were killed by the boy he considered his best friend, he is now highly trained and ultra observant. Not much gets past him. He has completed six missions, eliminating people the program consider dangerous. The last being the termination of his ‘friend’ Jack’s father. And even though the assassin knows he has broken another person’s heart, even though ‘he can do it and not feel it,’ there are stirrings of sympathy for him as a hint of his thoughts are revealed. ‘I had feelings once, too. I think I did. But that was a long time ago. That was before.’ His real name and identity are lost in that long ago time.
Having an anti-hero, initially with no name, creates a distance between the protagonist and reader, until more of his story is revealed in flashbacks. This approach works well, building up a picture of a child turned into a killer whose only choices were either join The Program or join his parents. ‘Twelve years old and I had to make a choice between life and death.’ No excuses are made for the choices Ben made, regardless of his sad story and the fact his life only consists of mission after mission. No friends, no family, no home.
The assassin’s next mission necessitates him blending in with students at an elite school in NYC in order to access his target, the city’s mayor, through his daughter, Samara. Benjamin, his name for this assignment, is efficient and competent, detached emotionally and able to fit in with whatever the situation requires. What Benjamin hasn’t accounted for is Samara and the fact his target reminds him of his own father. Memories begin to surface, memories that were buried deep, of the child he was, his family and flashes of his old life before The Program. Ben begins to question what he’s doing and all he’s been taught causing him to do something he has never even considered previously, breaking the code of behaviour that has been instilled into him. The plot is excellent and Benjamin’s interesting character gives it a unique twist.
I know my father was not the great dad I thought he was, or the man he pretended to be to the world. The Program tells me one thing, but my memories tell me another.
The hook, for me, is the complex and complicated protagonist and his internal struggle with the years of training and conditioning clashing with the control and freedom issues he is just beginning to explore. The Program, with it’s authoritarian ‘Mother’ and ‘Father,’ is vague throughout and not given much detail. We’re just told ‘The Program is all about finding and removing enemies of the US.’ The air of mystery, about The Program and Benjamin, only adds to the overall story.
Death is a tool I use for my work. It’s not something I do lightly.
Benjamin’s character development is marked and through his self questioning he learns a lot about himself. The supporting cast is credible and strong and the narrative is penned in short, concise chapters which adds to the tension and fast pace of the storyline. I enjoyed the unpretentious, straight to the point writing style. The content is quite unlike the couple of other books I’ve read by Allen Zadoff in that it’s much darker and has sexually implied scenes.
A word of warning, this book has been released under three titles, Boy Nobody, I Am The Weapon and The Hit.
About the author
Allen Zadoff is the author of the new thriller series, The Unknown Assassin which earned starred reviews and has been optioned for a feature film by Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment. His YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and was a YALSA selection for Most Popular Paperbacks of 2012. His second novel was My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies, the story of a techie hiding from life after a family tragedy. His third novel Since You Left Me is set in Los Angeles and tells the story of a religious school student who doesn’t believe. He also wrote the memoir for adults, Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.
Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training.