Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Boy Nobody
Title: Boy Nobody
Author: Allen Zadoff
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date of Publication: May 23, 2013

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.

In this action-packed series debut, author Allen Zadoff pens a page-turning thriller that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping, introducing an utterly original and unforgettable antihero.




My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I can't say this enough but truly, infinite thanks to Victoria of Hachette Children's Books for sending me an ARC of Boy Nobody and giving me the chance to read and review this gem before it even comes out in the world. Now, I can go around and shout at the top of my lungs how good this book is. Or the modern equivalent - tweet about it like mad. I will surely do. I am tempted to just smash my keyboard because that's what I did right after I read Boy Nobody. I was speechless and I didn't realize I was holding my breath while reading the last pages. Releasing a big exhale, I pounded on my keyboard to release pent-up awesomeness. True story. So if this review doesn't end up convincing you, picture yourself releasing a breath out of awesomeness read and acquired and smashing your keyboard. Do you want to experience that for yourself? Do you want to read something that will make you do that? Grab Boy Nobody.

At twelve, his best friend killed his parents. At twelve, he was plucked and trained by The Program. At fourteen, he became a ruthless assassin. Now sixteen, he's supposed to kill the mayor of New York City. Boy Nobody does not have feelings, no emotions, only sensations. He's given an assignment and he finishes it. He's a patriot, a soldier, trained to kill enemies of the United States. For months, he integrates in his target's life, then kills him with one swift stab of a pen and leaves, moving on to his next assignment. With six successful missions in two years, he gets to his most difficult assignment yet: kill the mayor of New York City in five days. Complication: the mayor's daughter, Sam.

Allen Zadoff has crafted an antihero with no name as the main character and it works so well. Maintaining the anonymity of the protagonist creates the desired effect, he could be anyone. He didn't even describe the MC's physical features. But alongside the apparent distance this style creates, it also works the other way, making you feel for the character. Maybe it's just me but I have a soft spot for flawed characters. Label him an antihero and I am pretty much on his corner.

Boy Nobody is told in the first person point-of-view, as the main character tells us his story. We see into his mind, sift through his memories and think along with him. The narrator is calculating, with his actions and his words. He gauges situations, analyzes them and acts out of necessity, specifically, he kills only when necessary.

The protagonist takes on the name of Benjamin and enrolls in Sam's school to get close to her and her father. With the timeline of this mission so short, Ben gets into Sam's circle in no time. But Sam's difficult. She isn't like most girls and he can't quite predict and understand her game. Moreover, the mayor reminds him of his beloved father. During missions, he only thinks about finishing his assignment but this time it's different. Memories stashed away in a corner of his mind comes surfacing and he starts to hesitate, finding himself faltering, questioning The Program and breaching protocol. And when he falters, The Program comes for him.

All of the characters had dimension, depth and their own histories. This novel is a prime example how characters that you can't categorize as completely evil or entirely good are the best ones. Take for example the protagonist. He does it under orders for the greater good but who gets to decide what's the greater good? Who decides which life is more important than the other? As much as it's riveting, Boy Nobody also makes you think, as it raises bigger questions about good and bad.

The twists and turns in Boy Nobody totally surprised me, it had me reeling at the edge of my seat. Allen Zadoff completely pulled my chair out of me. Engaging is an understatement as reading Boy Nobody is a complete experience. I can actually picture it as a film while I was reading it. That vivid, that good. I was completely immersed in this world of Arab henchmen and unassuming teenager assassins with pens that can kill and phones that might have been invented by Q of James Bond with all the encryptment and "applications".

I recommend Boy Nobody to all action buffs out there and to reluctant teenage boy readers as the action is non-stop. Thrilling, gripping, compelling and at times heart-tugging, Boy Nobody is a book you won't be able to put down. In the end, your heart will go out to a heartless teen. I  certainly cannot wait for the sequel.

About Allen Zadoff

Allen Zadoff is the author of several acclaimed novels including Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and a YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults. He is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. His training as a super spy, however, has yet to be verified.


  1. Wow, what a great review! I already had this on my TBR list, but you just sold me on picking it up a lot sooner! I enjoyed the excerpt too, so I will be picking up a copy very soon! Thanks :)

    1. Thanks Rachel for your kind words! That's the greatest compliment! <3 Do read it sooner rather than later because it's so awesome!


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