Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff
Boy Nobody is a young adult thriller written by Allen Zadoff. Set in America, it follows a young boy trained to be a highly effectively assassin who makes friends with the children of his intended targets.
The idea of a boy building a relationship with a kid to gain access to their parents really intrigued me. I thought it was very clever, as a parent is unlikely to be suspicious or on guard around a kid, let alone one that’s actively a friend of the family. In the book it’s mentioned that this is meant to take a few weeks, but the assignment the protagonist ends up doing is much shorter. I think this is a bit of a shame, as I’d have liked to have seen how the protagonist slowly slips himself into the life of his targets, however the condensed timeframe is important later on, and does give the audience time to get to know the protagonist between assignments earlier on in the book.
The story is told in a first person narrative, so there is not much description, and the writing contains a lot of short sentences. This style works well, as it gives you the impression that you actually are listening to someone’s thoughts. Not only that, but it reveals how differently the boy thinks to everyone else. He thinks quickly, in short sharp blocks. His thoughts don’t really have a flow, they are more mechanical. I found this a little difficult to read personally, being used to longer sentences and pacing, but it suits the genre and character very well.
Though the boy does not describe his surroundings very much, he does describe, or thinks through, observations and the techniques and methods he is trained in. He notes that a guy is a professional by the way he holds his gun, explains how his communication devices are made to be secure and describes how he makes subtle changes to his appearance and the way he acts so he can be mistaken for someone else. I found all this fascinating stuff, and felt it was really well researched and believable.
I also liked the way the book didn’t patronised its audience. It dealt with, and touched on, lots of different issues – political, moral and emotional. It also leaves room for the reader to decide what they think of these issues, rather than having a message it’s trying to preach, though it hints that family is important.
The main story and plot does start off feeling a little familiar and predictable, and I pretty much managed to guess one reveal, but otherwise it did have a good twist that I had not anticipated. I also liked the ending, which has been left somewhat open as the book is going to be the first in the series.
In summary, I think it was a good book. Great escapism, it was entertaining and intelligent too. Unfortunately though, it didn’t quite manage to grip me. That maybe because of the genre, which is one I don’t normally read, or possibly because the main protagonist, though sympathetic, is not someone you can completely empathise with. His training has turned him into something that isn’t an average teenager, or even an average person and because of that you can feel sorry for him, but perhaps not identify with him.
Finally, just a quick note on the actual book cover and the book itself. Though the cover isn’t anything special, I really liked the orange edging to the pages, I thought that was a really colourful touch.
Boy Nobody is available to buy now.