Boy Nobody (Allen Zadoff)

Boy NobodyBoy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "They needed the perfect soldier: one who could function in every situation without fear, sympathy or anger; who could assassinate strangers and then walk away emotionally unscathed. So they made Boy Nobody-a teen with no name or history. The perfect soldier. 

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. But when he's assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter seems so much like him; the mayor smells like his father. And when memories and questions surface, the Program is 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."

Oh. My. Gosh.

I started reading Boy Nobody in the Charlotte, NC, airport on my way home for the holidays. On page 9, I had to close the book and concentrate on my breathing, trying to get my heart rate down to a manageable level. On page 23, I made a phone call just so that I could say that I was reading this heart-stopping thriller of a book... And that's pretty much how my reading experience continued.

What Allen Zadoff does masterfully is create insane levels of tension and suspense. The chapters are short, the sentences shorter--everything is designed to keep you reading faster, faster, faster until you're out of breath and almost genuinely frightened for yourself. I was immediately pulled into the story and (after the first hiccups of excitement) didn't stop once. It's that engaging.

While I was completely engaged by the tension and the storyline, I wasn't quite as interested in Boy Nobody himself. He seemed a little like a blank slate to me (besides his emerging doubts about The Program)--but I think it's one of the natural hazards of writing about someone whose personality has been suppressed and buried. This is not to say that I didn't sympathize with Boy. I just didn't really connect with him.

I'm generally more of a character person, so the fact that I loved this book even though I wasn't over-the-moon crazy about Boy is a testament to the book's other strengths. The plotting and pacing is tight. The tension is high. The twist (of course there's a twist) is satisfying and unpredictable. This is action at its finest, and I can't wait to see what Zadoff does next.

*I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.