Thursday, July 11, 2013

REVIEW: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Title: Boy Nobody
Author: Allen Zadoff Website Twitter Facebook
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Pages: 352
Buy It! amazon
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

First Thoughts: A great action-packed spy thriller! I picked up this book on a whim, thinking it would connect to my boy readers, and I ended up loving the book myself. A great, unpredictable ending, which is so rare for the usually formulaic spy thrillers.

I realized, this summer, that I’m somewhat in a reading rut; I read the same kinds of books over and over - dystopian or girly realistic fiction. I know I need more books that are going to reach my boy readers and admittedly, I don’t do a great job of that. That’s why I picked up Zadoff’s Boy Nobody. I thought I would trudge through it, as spy thrillers are not my number one choice (hence the reading rut). Instead, I ended up flying through the book, having a hard time even putting it down, which was problematic as we were in the middle of sodding most of our backyard.

Here’s why I enjoyed it so much - it wasn’t predictable. Not to knock YA fiction, which I obviously love, but so often genre books tend to follow the same pattern. This happens, then this, then the end. It doesn’t mean the books aren’t enjoyable, they are just predictable. Not so for Boy Nobody. I was so sure I knew how this book was going to end and I was so wrong (I love when that happens). Here’s another reason I enjoyed it  - even though it’s part of a series (I didn’t know this until I finished it) it felt like a stand alone. Too often series books end with a cliffhanger and then as a reader I’m not satisfied with the resolution. This book left me with closure, although I wouldn’t mind reading more of Zach’s missions - well done Zadoff!

And, here’s why I REALLY enjoyed the book - the characters were great (surprise, surprise, from this character lover)! Ben, or Zach, or Nobody, or whatever you want to call him is fantastic - again, well done Zadoff! No one knew who he was, he didn’t even know who he was, and yet I felt like I knew who he was. I felt conflicted along with him; I cringed when he made decisions he didn’t want to make. He was an “if Jason Bourne and James Bond mated and had a teenage son” kind of character (I know, impossible, but you get the idea). And, as always, I’m a sucker for the comic relief minor character: Howard was perfect! His eventual background story (really just a blip in the grand scheme of the book) may be a bit inappropriate, but what better way to draw in guy readers I suppose - read page 219 to see what I mean. The best part of the characters is that they weren’t too charactery - they each possessed secrets and backstories that were unexpected. I couldn’t pigeon-hole them into a role, and I couldn’t predict their actions (although I tried and failed).

I started this book thinking it would be an okay read and that some of my boy readers would enjoy it, and I was surprised to find out how much I enjoyed it as well. I think I’m going to add some of Allen Zadoff’s other titles to my To-Be-Read list; if they are anything like this one, I know I will enjoy them.

Random side note: for some reason, whenever I said or read the title, I pictured Armand Assante as Odysseus telling the Cyclops his name is No-Bo-Dy. I guess that’s a sign I’ve seen that movie WAY too many times - a problem only English teachers must have.

Final Thoughts: A great spy thriller that breaks the mold of a usually predictable genre. Plus, it’s not just about the action or the mission. Yes, there is fighting and yes, there is killing, but it’s ultimately about the characters

Who Should Read It? Fans of action, adventure, spy thrillers, and mystery will all enjoy this book. I think boys will love this book but girls will definitely enjoy it as well (at least I did). It’s a fairly quick read with nice, short chapters that appeal to all types of readers.

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