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And You Thought Your High School Job Sucked

Think working fast food or retail was a bad job? Just wait till you hear what Boy Nobody does after debate club.

And You Thought Your High School Job Sucked

BOOK REPORT for Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Cover Story: Snapshot
Drinking Buddy: Um, Is That Iocane Powder I'm Not Smelling?
Testosterone Level: Third Testicle
Talky Talk: Tears of the Damned
Bonus Factors: Secret Agent Man, Nerdy Sidekick
Bromance Status: Watch Where You're Pointing That Thing

Cover Story: Snapshot

New York City skyline at dawn, lone runner, cross hairs. Makes me want to open this book. Note to cover designers: Less is more.

The Deal:

We all know how much high school jobs suck: You have to close on Saturday. You have to work with that idiot, Dwayne. Your quasi-government masters order you to assassinate the mayor of New York City. Dicks.

Our faceless, sixteen-year-old hero (he goes by 'Ben' on this mission) has one job: He infiltrates a wealthy private school, befriends a certain student, and after a couple of months, kills that student's parent. And it's not like he does it for kicks. These are bad people, spies, terrorists, traitors. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. At least he doesn't have to wear a hairnet.

Ben has never disobeyed The Program, since they adopted him four years ago after killing his family. Now, Ben faces his most difficult mission. In five days, he must befriend Sam, the daughter of the mayor of New York, and then kill him.

Not easy in the best of circumstances, but now the unthinkable is happening. Ben is questioning his orders. Sam is awfully sweet, and seems to like him (or the boy he's pretending to be). His Honor is a nice guy, kind of reminds Ben of the father he lost. And when Ben has a chance to arrange an untraceable 'heart attack,' he chokes.

His controllers are not pleased.

Drinking Buddy: Um, Is That Iocane Powder I'm Not Smelling?

Ben pretty much has no moral compass. The mission is everything. He avoids killing civilians; not because it's wrong, but because that would bring undue attention to himself. Ben is a phenomenal bass-ass, but since his entire job involves befriending people in order to kill their families, I'm not exactly eager to have a beer with this guy.

Testosterone Level: Third Testicle

Seriously. You'd need one to produce this much testosterone. For Ben, being jumped by a trio of trained Chinese assassins is just another Friday night thing. He knows how to hurt, how to maim, how to kill. Fending off a gang of Arab terrorists on the subway, while not drawing attention to himself and getting his drunken date home safely? Yeah, he does that.

Talkly Talk: Tears of the Damned

   

We all know that there are people out there whose job it is to kill. Perhaps out of patriotism, or belief in a cause, or for money. It doesn't matter. But what goes on in their heads? Do they ever question what they are doing? Does it keep them up at night? What do they do for fun? Do they date? Hang out with friends? What makes them tick?

This book does an interesting job of answering those questions.

Bonus Factor: Secret Agent Man

How do all those Jame Bond gadgets work? Science! Boy Nobody does a better job of explaining this side of things, without being too technical. Ben kills his targets with a ballpoint pen that is equipped with a deadly poison, a coma-inducing drug, and--get this--ink. His dossiers appear as normal Facebook profiles, and his orders come through disguised iPhone apps. His e-mailed instructions seem to be nothing more than communications between a kid and his parents. I like the fact that the author took time to think out these details, it makes the book more believable.

And next time some jack-off on Yahoo! is going on about gay rights or politics, I can fantasize that his comments are actually disguised orders for someone to take out a sleeper cell in Atlanta.

Bonus Factor: Nerdy Sidekick

Ben befriends a computer geek named Howard in order to get information about Sam. Ben has been trained to never get involved. Other people are tools, to be used when needed, discarded when finished, and disposed of when inconvenient. But the newly-sensitive Ben develops an affinity for the little dweeb. When he happens upon some bullies beating up Howard, things proceed in a predictable manner.

"What sport do you play?"

"Soccer."

I'm feeling magnanimous. I break his wrist.

Bromance Status: Watch Where You're Pointing That Thing

Look, I didn't see anything, okay? You do what you got to do, it's none of my business. I swear, I'll keep my mouth shut. Seriously, I know what that pen does, you don't have to do that. But, um, just between you and me, you're awesome, dude. Stay safe. I know we can't talk anymore after this, but...next time some foreign industrialist dies in a 'car wreck', I'll think of you.

I can neither confirm nor deny that I received a free copy of this book from Little, Brown and Company. Okay, I can confirm it. You are ordered to pick up a copy of Boy Nobody when it is released this June.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.