Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

I walk past the revolving lights of the ambulance.

Past the security vehicles, the police officers, the chatter of voices over shortwave radios.
"Do you need a ride?" the gate guard says.

"I'm good," I say.

"Tough day," he says.

"Terrible," I say.

"It happened on my watch," he says, shaking his head. "But they can't blame me, right? I'm not God. I don't get to decide when and where."

Not true. You don't have to be God to decide when and where. You only have to take action and be willing to deal with the consequences.

"Take care of yourself," he says.

"I always do," I say.

He opens the gate for me, and I'm out.

I walk down the street slowly, like someone who is traumatized. But I'm not traumatized. I'm already thinking about what comes next. I'm reviewing my exit strategy.

And maybe, just for a moment, I'm thinking about Jack.

He was my best friend for four weeks.

But not anymore.

He might not like it much that I killed his father. Not that he'll know. The drug leaves no trace. Jack's dad had a heart attack. That's what the autopsy will show, if there is an autopsy. Strings will be pulled. Or the modern equivalent- computer keys pressed.
If an autopsy is done, it will show nothing at all.

Natural causes.

That's my specialty. People die around me, but it never seems like my fault. It seems like bad luck following good.

Good luck: You meet a great new friend at school.

Bad luck: A tragedy befalls your family.

The two don't ever seem connected, but they are.

Jack didn't know that when we became best friends a month ago. I slipped into his life easily, and now I'm slipping out just as easily.

I've broken another guy's heart, changed the course of his life. Lucky for me, I can do it and not feel it.

I don't feel anything.

Not true.

I feel cold, I feel hungry, I feel the fabric of a new shirt rubbing against my skin, and I feel gravel beneath my feet.

But those are sensations, not feelings.

I had feelings once, too. I think I did. But that was a long time ago.

That was before.


Boy Nobody is the perfect assassin:  blending in to the school to befriend the target's teenage kid, getting into the house of the target and making the kill, and getting out again under the cover of a tragedy of his own 'parents' before anyone is any wise. Always moving from target to target, he's too busy and buried in his own missions to wonder about his past and what really happened to his parents, or to question the motives of his superiors.

Until now. His newest assignment takes him to New York, where in 5 days he's to befriend Sam, the daughter of the mayor of New York, and take out her father. When Sam gets under his skin, and her father starts reminding him of his own family, everything that Boy Nobody has depended on starts to turn upside down, and his ever-present Watchers from The Program add to the pressure. Can Boy Nobody figure out who he wants to be and break his programming?

A true anti-hero book, boy nobody will remind modern readers of both James Bond and Jason Bourne with the mission completions and the pressure from both sides. Falling for Sam is the least of his worries when tests and pressure from The Program come into play, especially when Boy Nobody starts to suspect that the mission he is on is the wrong one. His examination of himself and his morality, as well as the speed and direction of the plot, keeps readers guessing, and the twists and turns will keep you on your seat. Recommended for reluctant readers for the short chapters, shorter paragraphs, and high action. There are scenes that are extremely violent, and some stereotyping (which is discussed below). Definitely pair with I am the Cheese (for the antihero) or Proxy (for suspense). 3.5 stars out of 5. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads has Boy Nobody has rated as 3.96 stars

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MASSIVE SPOILERS REVEALED

I was *SOOOOO* excited to get this book. I love action/adventure, and have seen every Bond movie (including On Her Majesty's Secret Service which is the one NO ONE will claim to have seen). I've seen Jason Bourne, and watched the new Bourne movie, and was really hyped about a book embracing this theme and culture- something that I could get into the hands of my teens who love these same movies but keep telling me "MISS, READING IS BORING!!!"

And I really loved the book! I loved the premise, and I loved the backstory, and was flying through the book. And I think professionally it deserves the rating I gave it above.

However, I have personal issues with it.

I didn't have a problem with the violence. Or the fact that we're attacking New York. Or that Boy Nobody's father may have been involved in The Program and gotten out, or that he may still be alive somewhere after all.

I got to the last quarter of Boy Nobody where it is revealed that Sam, the daughter, is plotting to kill her father with her boyfriend from Israel. 

The American father is being plotted against by his half American half Israeli daughter with her full Israeli boyfriend.

Really?

REALLY!?!?!?!??!

We need this stereotypical characterization in the world right now?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!

I get the angst- she's pissed because he let her mother die. And I get that the boyfriend played on her grief and emotions. But did we really need a book that made a POC (person of color), in fact a female POC who was intelligent and witty and funny, be out for revenge and blood debt? It wouldn't have been better had it been a POC SON out for revenge, either. It just feels like extending, inflaming, and perpetuating the hatred that is still in this country from the attacks of 9/11. There had to have been another way to get the same situation and the same tension without making Sam's heritage a nationality that already has a lot of hatred going against it in America.

5 comments:

  1. My favorite teen Spy books are definitely the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz. They're not all new since the series is being concluded, but I could read them over and over.

    The best assassin book I've read lately was Graceling by Kristin Cashore, which is also not a terribly new book (c2008).

    Betsy
    ngrl.librarian@gmail.com

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  2. I'd have to say, Sybella from Dark Triumph! @allbookedupya

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  3. Definitely the His Fair Assassins series, with Sybella edging out Ismae. Looking forward to Mortal Heart next year!

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  4. Jimmy Coates and Alex Rider are two of my favorites (and my son's). This sounds like a book he'd like.

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