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.
(Summary from Goodreads)
Like many of my books, I heard about this one through the grapevine known as Goodreads. I was instantly taken by the description. I had to have it. I wasn’t even thinking about it when I went to the book store almost a week ago, but when I saw it, I remembered. I remembered and now I wonder how I could have forgotten.
So here was my reaction when I got the book:
And here is my reaction now that I’ve finished it:
Now don’t get me wrong. It was an awesome book. No, these are not happy tears, but you know…
On with the review!
For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to the MC as “Benjamin” or “Ben” because that was his cover name for the main assignment featured in this book. His real name is revealed on page 278. What is that about? Poor guy hasn’t heard his real name in years.
Can I start by stating how creepy it is that “Ben” calls his handlers “Mother” and “Father”. Having said that, I think the name Mother kind of strikes fear into my heart. I’m African. African parents are strict. Mine aren’t too bad, but the stories I have heard…
Anyway, “Benjamin”has been given a new assignment. He has to kill the mayor of New York. Now that’s not your average teen job. I don’t have a job, but the worst my friends have had to endure are rude customers at McDonalds, early hours getting the newspaper round done… and digging holes. That last friend works as a builder or something.
Now, having already witnessed an earlier assignment that “Ben” has completed, I’m thinking, no big deal. But he’s being told he has to complete the assignment in 5 days. “Ben” isn’t arrogant, which is one thing I really like about him. In fact, he’s a little worried about this one, although, I’m sure a part of him is thinking: “Pffh? Five days? I can do that, no problem”.
“Boy Nothing” AKA: “Benjamin”
Now, I know… Comparing “Ben” to Bane? What’s that about? Well, at the very least, they both have very questionable morals. Well, I’m not sure they have any. “Ben’s” moral compass is almost non-existent when we meet him. He gets a message from The Program and then he heads off to kill someone. What I really admire about this book is the way he goes about killing people. “Ben” is that kid that slips into your life, and gains your trust. Admittedly I often wonder how I became friends with some of the people I know. The tale seems to be lost in the past. Which immediately has me worried that some kid from The Program will come and…
Never mind. I’m over-thinking it. “Boy Nobody” is a book. “Boy Nobody” is a book. Okay. I think I’m calm now.
“Ben” has a lot of skills. He is very good at analysing people and emulating them. What really got to me is when he didn’t understand this sign somewhere that said “Home is where the <3 is”. He was so puzzled by how the home could be in the heart, and it made me so sad, because he has no family. That, on top of all the training he’s had, has conditioned him into being used to being alone. He is very detached from people on the inside, and yet he is very good at pretending.
Samara “Sam” Goldberg
So, Sam is the teenager that “Ben” must befriend in order to take out their parent. She’s pretty likeable. Being the mayor’s daughter, she’s pretty high on the social ladder, but due to political differences, she is also a victim to other students, occasionally, as shown in AP European when she was being picked on. Unlike “Ben”, she seems to have a sound moral compass. She is strong in her beliefs, and she’s generally a very nice person. She is also perceptive. She calls “Ben” out on his mind games. This makes his job harder, of course, thereby making the book more enjoyable.
Now, of course there were other, minor characters, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Having said that, another character of note was Howard, the techy, was a very interesting addition. You just might laugh out loud when you find out why he’s an outsider. Or you might feel bad for him. I know I was in hysterics when he thought “Ben” was a vampire! So Howard is sort perceptive too. In a sort of delusional way. The point is, he knows that there is something different about “Ben”, and he proves to be a very unexpected ally.
Okay, so his iPhone is basically a means of communicating with The Program, securely. “Ben” also always speaks in code, referring to his mission as an “assignment”, like homework he has to turn in. Zadoff explains the technicalities of the gadgets very simply, which I appreciate. The idea of having another operating system beneath a phone is ingenious. It may have already been done in some other spy movie or the like, but I still think it’s cool.
My favourite gadget of course is his pen. In safe mode, it’s just a regular pen. When it’s activated, it’s a weapon. Two clicks and it’s set to stun mode. One click, and it’s lethal. I’m sorry Percy, but I have to admit that this one just might be better than Anaklusmos.
Poseidon, please don’t smite me!
I mean, Riptide is awesome, but it’s only just occurred to me that you can’t actually write with it.
I will never think of pens the same way again. Beware the “lucky” pen!
Now, the one thing I didn’t like was that it took “Ben” ages to figure out who “The Presence”- his stalker- was. I figured it out a long time ago. Having said that, I was only working from intuition, not actual facts. When things are fictional, it’s easier to guess, and I suppose the fact that he didn’t figure it out sooner shows that despite his training, he’s still only human.
The book is in 1st person, from “Ben’s” perspective at all times. The chapsters are actually pretty short which makes it pretty easy to digest. The writing style is clear and easy to understand, overall. It took me ages to notice, because it flowed so well, but the book flits between present tense and past tense. Everything In the Now- his current mission, is of course in the present tense. The flashbacks are in past tense. I particularly enjoyed these flashbacks because they helped to humanise “Ben”. Seeing it as it was helps me to understand how deeply the conditioning has affected him.
“All’s fair in love and war.”
“Which one are we doing?”
“I look out for her. Think of me as the early asshole warning system.”
“You specialize in ass, that’s what you’re telling me.”
“Did you spit in it?”
“That’s elementary school stuff. We’re in the big leagues now. I pissed in it.”
And this is my very lame attempt at creating my own GIF:
And yes, that is Robert De Niro.
As usual, the wait for the sequel of the book will be very difficult to cope with. So this is how I feel:
I rate this book 5 stars, but seeing as how it’s too awesome for mere, stars, I think it deserves this, because it blew my mind:
And I will end with this trailer: