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Review: Boy Nobody by Alan Zadoff

boy nobodyBoy 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.

No one ever suspects the children. Numerous authors have come to this realization – Robert Muchamore is particularly successful at this – but I also really enjoyed Zadoff’s take on the belief that children are the most innocuous and therefore the least suspicious operatives in a crime syndicate. With his latest book, Zadoff gives us a young man who has lost everything, only to realize that he has the power to get his life back.

In particular, I was drawn to the enigma quality of “Boy”‘s character. There is so much that we don’t know about him at the start of the story, and he is equally in the dark about his past. Flashbacks come to him after each mission, and he begins to develop a dawning realization that the organization that he considers ‘family’ may be the source of everything he has lost. I really liked how the Boy’s relationship with the Mayor brought back memories of his own father, and observing the Mayor’s relationship with his daughter mirrored the Boy’s own life. The contrast between that and his almost clinical interactions with “Mother” and “Father” was definitely startling.

I would have loved to have learned more about the history of the Program, but that’s something that I think both the Boy and the reader will learn about in future installments, especially as he tracks his past and begins to understand how to take back his life. Throughout this book, we learned little about Boy and his feelings and thoughts about things; it was good to see him begin to thaw and to express himself a little more near the end of the book. Hopefully he will continue to grow in the next book.

The time period of the book is quick – five days – so there’s a lot to pack into the short time frame. At times, the story seems a little rushed, and I wished for a bit more time to allow for more detail to shine through. Boy is highly analytical, and while he’s uber efficient, I also think that a little more time might have added a bit of plausibility to the storyline.

This is an easy read, filled with action and enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. It’s the perfect book for the teen reader who isn’t sure if they like reading, but also for that reader who has devoured the latest series and is looking for something good to rip through next. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to him next (The Lost Mission is scheduled for release in June of next year).

Boy Nobody is published by Little, Brown & Co, and was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased at Indigo, Kobo or your friendly indie bookseller. ISBN: 9780316199681, 337 pages. 

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