Teen Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Boy Nobody
by Allen Zadoff
To be published by Little, Brown
on June 11, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Connect with the author: website : Twitter.

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. 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.
I have two teen reviewers who stop by now and then and one of them is my special guest today. You might remember him as the one who reviewed Revolution 19.  Just like the Terminator, he's baaaack.

When I saw this book offered up on NetGalley, I thought of him.  He's a teenager addicted to video games who can sometimes be persuaded to pick up a book. He still wishes to remain anonymous -- he's kind of a Boy Nobody himself.

Me: Can we talk about that book I gave you to read over spring break?

BN: Which book?

Me: The one about the boy who kills people? I thought it would be perfect for you.

BN: Because of my homicidal tendencies?

Me: No. Because it's about a kid around your age who lives in an apartment all alone, with no parents. And he kills people.

BN: He kills them with a pen.

Me: Isn't it a poison pen? And you know that the pen is mightier than the sword. (laughs)

BN:  Your jokes are terrible.

Me: So you always tell me. What did you like about the book?

BN: Some parts were good. Like the action scenes. But the characters were pretty one dimensional.

BN: I guess the main character was supposed to be enigmatic. What about the love interest? The girl?

BN: The one who pretends not to be interested in the assassin kid and then, before his four day mission is even over, throws herself at him?

Me:  Uh, yeah. That one.

BN: That's not even remotely realistic.

Me: I agree that their relationship seemed … sudden. And that their conversations weren't exactly romantic. "You don't know me." "I don't want to know you." She seemed to me like the kind of girl that other girls dislike.

BN: Huh?

Me: Never mind. I liked Erica.

BN: The drunk girl?

Me: I decided not to hold that against her. And I liked Howard. Every book needs a computer nerd. When he thought the main character was a vampire, I cracked up.

BN: You would.

Me: My favorite parts of the book were the way that Boy Nobody communicates with his handlers. The YouTube videos, the phone apps. That was pretty cool.

BN: Yeah. But did he have to kill all his targets with a pen?

Me:  I did wonder if he killed all those people with the same pen. That thing is a biohazard.

BN: I just wanted some variety in the killing. You know, maybe push someone out a window for a change.

Me:  Yeah.

BN: Strangle them.

Me: Right. I got it.

BN: Burn their house down. La casa incendiara.

Me: That's what they're teaching you in Spanish class? And for the record, I think he did break someone's neck once. Maybe he couldn't find the pen. Okay, what about the ending? I was pretty surprised by the fact that he [spoiler redacted.]

BN: Yeah, but I never really cared that much about the characters, so …

Me: I also thought that the writing was pretty basic.  Either the narrator was just a terse kind of guy, or the book was written at a lower reading level than most of the stuff I review.

BN: Or maybe you should stop reading kids' books.

Me: Funny.

My verdict:  If you like a fast-paced book with a lot of action, give Boy Nobody a try. I think it would particularly appeal to reluctant teen readers and/or action/adventure fans who enjoy stuff like the Alex Rider series and whose parents don't mind the PG-13 content (two cut-away sex scenes and some not-too-graphic violence.)

If you love cloak and dagger stuff, be sure to check out one of my most viewed posts of all time: If You Like YA Books About Spies, Assassins and Secret Agents.


  1. This is such a funny review-I love this kid's opinions and your interaction with him. Wanting some variety in the way people are killed-lol!

    1. Yeah, I think kids are more used to violence than we were growing up, and I guess this seemed a little tame to him.

  2. I love when you talk to these kids... reminds me how funny they can be.
    Having teenagers of my own, trust me when I tell you it gets lost sometimes.... :-)

    1. Kids are the best. And teenagers are just so … blunt.

  3. "Or maybe you should stop reading kids' books."
    LOL I loved this review! :D

  4. hehe - I think BN knows too many ways to kill a person. Be afraid lol

    Yup - I'm passing on this one. I love assassin stories but I need a little more to the characters too.

    1. Right? I'm sure he could think of more...

  5. Oh, I just love the sarcastic wit of a teenager. And he's judgmental, too! :) This review is HILARIOUS. Love it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Tried to get some substance in there!

  6. Gracious, I ADORE these reviews you do with BN! They are clever, make me laugh and give a great outline of the book you read through an engaging delivery. I hope he wants to do more of them. As for this book, I love spy/thriller stories, but not characters that are hard to connect with. Also, I don't like when some aspects of a book read older and others seem to young. That always bugs me. From what you guys said, this characters' "relationship" with the girl sounds a lot like a typical Bond girl encounter, which always makes me squeamish.

    1. EXACTLY. A James Bond relationship is what it felt like. Some banter in which it seems like the girl is resisting him, and then she can't help herself. Of course, we don't get her POV… She might see it quite differently LOL.

      In any case, for a reader who loves fast pace, lots of action, and that James Bond kind of romance, this book is perfect!

  7. Replies
    1. They don't seem funny when I am dragging his opinions out of him (you notice that every time I have to read the book too so I know what he's talking about) but they do end up kind of funny….

  8. Your Boy Nobody makes me laugh so hard. I loved this. And I am totally with him... I need some variety in my book deaths! La maison brûle. (Once, I tried to say "My French is terrible" in French to a French guy. He asked me if I was speaking Spanish.)

  9. I do love a plot that moves me deeply into the plot. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love these kinds of reviews. So funny :)

    I also agree that every book needs a computer nerd.

  11. These reviews always make me giggle because I think you and your son share the same sense of humor;) Keep them coming!


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