Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Boy Nobody


Author: Allen Zadoff
Release date: May 23rd 2013
Publisher: Orchard
Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher for review
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. 
When his own parents died of not-so-natural causes at the age of eleven, Boy Nobody found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's next mission.

Here’s a fair warning for you guys: don’t start reading Boy Nobody just before bedtime, especially if you have something important to do the next day. It will not end well, learn from my mistake. I thought I’d just read a few chapters and go to sleep, but somehow I ended up with a can of Red Bull at three in the morning, desperate to keep myself awake long enough to finish that last part. 

Zadoff was very careful not to reveal our protagonist’s name for most of the book, giving him an alias only when the narrative would have suffered otherwise, and always emphasizing the fact that his name, or anything else about him, doesn’t matter. His alias, Benjamin, was also used sparingly in the attempt to make him seem less like a person, and more like a well-oiled machine, completely stripped of personality, a weapon you aim at any given target and wait for it to go off. I'm happy to report that this attempt was very successful.

Our protagonist – I’ll call him Ben to avoid confusion although it’s not his real name - is emotionless, but not cruel; well-trained, but not bloodthirsty; competent, but not overly ambitious. The Program killed his parents and recruited him when he was no more than twelve, and his life has been just one mission after the other ever since. He has no friends, no family, just two bosses (or handlers) he calls Mother and Father. 

While Ben’s story is undoubtedly sad and one can understand why he made some of his choices, make no mistake – he is a killer. He is no would-be assassin; he is an agent with six successful missions behind him. He is the new boy in school who will use his training and expertise to worm his way into your life, kill your parents at first available opportunity and then disappear forever. 

Zadoff’s story seems to be Young Adult by accident, not by design, by which I mean that his protagonist’s age seems to be determined by the effect it has the story, and not the publishers or the market. This means that he didn’t pull any punches: the violence in Boy Nobody is not graphic, but it's constantly present. In many ways, this is a story better suited for older, more mature readers, although there's nothing to prevent me for recommending it to younger audience as well.. 

I loved that the author never tried to redeem his character. He never made excuses for him, never tried to turn him into something he’s not. In that, Boy Nobody is unlike any other YA book before it. Yes, Ben asks himself questions about morality, right and wrong, love and duty, but those questions aren’t the center of this story, nor is there some life-altering lesson hidden between the lines. 

Let me put it this way: try to imagine Jason Bourne in his formative years. If you like what you come up with, it means you’ll probably like Boy Nobody as well. Just make sure to start reading when you know you have time to finish it in one sitting.


32 comments:

  1. This sounds really good :D I would really like to get my hands on this. Ben (even though it seems that not his name lol) sounds like an interesting character. And the fact that you mentioned Jason Bourne...I'm hooked! Awesome review :)

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

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  2. I just finished reading my ARC of Boy Nobody like ten minutes ago and then I checked my blog reader and found your review. You totally captured what I thought of the book. Gah, I don't know if I can review it properly. I just want to thrust it to people and make them read it. It was so awesome. So so awesome. GAH I'm still reeling over it.

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  3. So I take it that is is a very engaging read. Sounds a little bit creepy but I like how the MC doesn't have his name revealed, seems to create a whole new level of suspense.

    Stunning review, Maja! <33

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  4. I remember reading the extract you shared with us for this book a while ago and I was utterly intrigued, I'm glad that the rest of the book was just as enthralling. Ben sounds like a well developed character and I can't wait to get into his head and find out more about him. Also I love it when you only intend on reading a book for a few pages but get totally get suckered in! Lovely review Maja!

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  5. I love a good book that keeps you up at night and never lets the genre it's in constrict it's story. I haven't read an action book like this in awhile, but I can't wait now. I'm really looking forward to this, so thanks for the fantastic review, Maja! :D

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  6. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about this book. For some reason even though I loved the cover and thought that the premise sounded great I had it in my mind that I wouldn't enjoy. But wow, a book that kept you up all night, huh? This is now going on my GR tbr! Brilliant review as always, Maja!

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  7. Your's is the second review I have read on this that was a glowing one and the funny thins is that before last week, I had no idea this book even existed. Now I must read it.
    Fabulous review!

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  8. The fact that this story gave you a book hangover is a ringing endorsement Maja! I love too that Ben is an unapologetic character, I'm always drawn to the honesty of those types of characters, regardless of whether or not I agree with what they do. I love that he is what is, and you can either take him or leave him:) I honestly didn't have much of a desire to read this one, but with that high a rating for you I simply must!!!!!

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  9. Hahaha I love books that make you not really give a crap what time it is and just read. Then you're a zombie the next day! Win! Jenni told me this one was really good and I had no real interest for it before that but since I have seen a few great reviews and I'm definitely intrigued, now! Plus it sounds like a quick read too (I don't think I ever could read a book in 1 sitting though I'm a slow poke >.<)

    Ok so what's this with not revealing his name? *intrigueness increases 10-folds* it sounds like a fantastic character though I like how he makes him genuine and doesn't make excuses for him like you say. That is definitely not a cookie-cutter character!

    Great review, Maja you have made me curious enough to try it! ;)

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  10. Yay! I really liked this one too! I loved how cold Ben was but how we got to see him begin to open up and his past start to creep up on him. Also how well done was that twist? I had no idea!

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  11. I have never heard of this book, but I like the idea of a unknown assassin boy. I'm so curious to read it just to see how the author pulls the suspense of. Do we ever get to know the guy or is it a mystery throughout the book? Now I have to read it! Wonderful review, Maja :)

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  12. 3am with a can of red bull? That speaks volumes. :) I admit this wasn't on my radar but I will definitely be seeking this one out now. Fabulous review! :)

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  13. I couldn't stop thinking Yesyesyesyesyes while reading your review!!! This sounds like a truly unputdownable book Maja :D

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  14. Hmmm, when I read another review I was pretty sure this was not something for me after all, but I'm starting to get my excitement back! Thanks :D

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  15. Love the way you wrote this review! Oh too bad that caffeine doesn't keep me awake. So, I'll have to remember to start this one early ~waaayy before nighty night time. :) I have to say, I'm quite curious about Ben. It's hard to write a sympathetic character who is a killer. Not in the way that you feel bad for him, but that you get a feel for the character. Oh I'm curious! Brilly review!

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  16. Don't you love it when you get swept you away and kept you reading way late. I love that this is differnet from your typical YA book and I love that is packed full of action. I know you have been wanting this one for awhile and I am taking notice. I will get it read!

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  17. I loved the Chapter One excerpt that you shared a while ago and now that I've read your review, I know I'll have to pre-order this. Thanks for sharing how much you enjoyed reading the book!

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  18. Its amazing how gripping some books can be, causing me to not sleep till I'm finished. Wonderful review! That's fantastic that the protagonist stays true to his identity the entire story. Definitely want to read this unique story!

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  19. Is it that good? This book intrigued me but I never picked up a copy. I think I'll reconsider this now. Great review Maja :) I'm really interested in seeing how Ben's mind works.

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  20. Thanks for the review Maja, I'll be definitely giving this one a look asap.

    Mihir

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  21. Wow! I think I kind of wrote this one off because it sounded like yet another overdone dystopian plot (must learn to read blurbs!). But I love the idea of this one, the maturity, and the way the protagonist is presented throughout. Adding to my wishlist!

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  22. Oooo.. I hadn't even really given this book a second thought, but it sounds damn good. I really had no idea. Wonderful review!

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  23. I've read a couple books by this author but Boy Nobody sounded like such a new and different approach from him, I wasn't sure what I'd think. Sounds like a very intense novel with a great psychological approach. Thanks for the review; I need to give this one a shot now.

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  24. I haven't heard much about this one, but need to put on my wishlist. With nothing pressing to do :)

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  25. Ooh, it's always so nice and encouraging to hear that you stayed up late in the night to finish the book! Exciting!! I am a bit conflicted about the MC though. On the one hand, I can't imagine being able to relate to such a character, but on the other hand, his characterization does sound particularly well crafted. And hopefully I would still enjoy the story even without being able to relate to anyone. I want to read this one now so thanks for this review then, Maja!

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  26. I don't think I've really heard much about this one but I'm sure intrigued! Having to stay up to finish it is definitely a good sign! It sounds pretty twisty too, which I love!

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  27. I've seen this book on your blog and now I really want to read it. It sounds really different and I remember the trailer - it was awesome. I'm so glad that you've enjoyed this one. Great review Maja.
    PS. I know how you feel btw, cause last night I've started reading The Sea Of Tranquility and I have a hard time to get read for the class.

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  28. I myself love when I find treasures like these hehe I been found reading to the wee hours in the mornings on my kindle as well just so I can find out what happens. This looks awesome and intense and well written with interesting characters. Loved your review!

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  29. I can never resist a book that makes you break out the Red Bull (or in my case diet coke) so you can stay up all night reading. Those are just the best aren't they? This is pretty much all you need to say to sell me on this one. Ok, and maybe this didn't hurt either "Let me put it this way: try to imagine Jason Bourne in his formative years" I can't wait to read this! Fabulous review, Maja! Thanks for putting this on my radar. :-)

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  30. WOW. this is another book that I had written off by previous reviews. But I love books about assassins, and the fact that this author doesn't sugarcoat the protagonist. You make this story sound really awesome!

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  31. Oh my god, this review makes me so, so excited! I love that he doesn't try to redeem his character -- sometimes, with certain characters it kind of ruins them when the author tries to redeem them. This story sounds so intense. I'm going to need to read this soon. Great review, you've really peeked my interest :)

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  32. Wow you read all night? This must be good and it sounds very exciting! I need to pick this up! Poor Ben! I'm wondering if this is a series or stand-alone. Wonderful review, Maja!:)

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