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.
Boy Nobody took me by surprise. I saw this yesterday at the bookstore and decided to buy it, but I didn’t expect to be absolutely intrigued and to finish it all in one sitting. Imagine, it took me only less than three hours to devour all of it. It even has that kind of prose that I usually hate, but this one made it work in a stunning, exceptional way. I couldn’t help but turn page after page, eager to know more about our main character and what else fate has in store for him.
As other reviews have already stated, I won’t be indulging the rest of you of what the story is all about. In a nutshell, it’s a story of Benjamin (or “Ben”, for short), who is a well-trained, competent, and meticulous assassin. Since the age of twelve, he’s been serving The Program, where his mission is to kill a particular target deemed dangerous and suspicious. How, you ask? By blending in with society and getting close to a relative of the marked person. He always finishes his missions. He’s terribly good at it. This new one wouldn’t be any different… or will it?
I really like Ben. He tells us his story in a detached, cool tone, like what you would expect from spies and assassins. He’s very careful and efficient; he adjusts his personality and façade in order to fit the situation. He enters peoples lives effortlessly, becomes their friend with a smile or two, and once he’s finished with his mission, he exits without a trace, leaving the son or daughter or whoever relative of the killed target he became close to heartbroken in his wake. He’s the kind of person who knows what needs to be done and does it while also knowing and minding the consequences. He seems to be proud of his skills, but as readers, we also get the feeling he’s terribly lonely, too, and we can’t help but feel for him despite the fact he has bloodied his hands several times. I like that even though he’s a certified and well-organized killer, he’s not ruthless; he doesn’t take lives meaninglessly, only if it’s necessary. I don’t know why, but this particular protagonist (or should I say anti-hero?) is just so oddly intriguing.
But what I really liked about him is that even though he knows his actions are questionable, he doesn’t try to pretend to be self-righteous or self-loathing about it. Usually when I see a premise like this, the character would have a moment of epiphany and would go, “Killing is wrong, even if they’re bad guys. From now on, I would only use honest and fair means!” and that bloody sucks. I for one believe that there are times when we have to get dirty too in order to fight for a greater cause. The reality is, in the real world, in the grander scheme of things, you don’t fight evil with rainbows and butterflies… you fight fire with fire, get dirty if you need to; be dishonest if the situation calls for it; cheat; kill; steal. It’s a sad reality, something I’m not proud to admit, but ’tis the truth, and I appreciate that Ben sees it that way, too. He doesn’t try to justify, doesn’t try to make excuses, doesn’t try to redeem himself by going the other way. He gets the shit done, and that’s that. And I like it that way.
There was something that made me raise my eyebrow, though. When Ben got his latest mission, he was troubled by the fact that he had to get closer to agirl. Because they’re troublesome and so emotional and so difficult to please yada yada yada. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes on that one, because this kind of thing is so cliché now. “OWMAYGADS, A GIRL! NOW OUR MISSION WILL SURELY BE DOOMED!” because, you know, girls get in the way. Always. *facepalm*
There was also this one where Ben felt someone pursuing him. The Presence, he was called. But throughout the story, I thought it was pretty obvious who The Presence was, and it kinda shocked me that being the brilliant spy and assassin that he was, it took him till near the ending to figure it all out.
But other than that, it was absolutely fantastic. The development of the story, the unexpected twists near the ending, the choices he had to make, and the new information that willed him to possibly deviate from The Program in the future – all of it was astounding. He’s a spectacular character, and his presence alone was enough to fuel and drive the novel. I’ll definitely look forward to the succeeding books!
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