I am the Weapon: Unknown Assassin # 1 by Allen Zadoff. A compulsively readable YA thriller
Boy Nobody or I am the Weapon was a book that caught my eye after Mihir from FBC and other fellow bloggers recommended it as a pretty addictive fast-paced thriller read. Mihir’s suggestions have been pretty spot-on and after having completed the excellent “Wayward Pines” trilogy – I was in the mood for something that’s light-duty and super-fast paced.
Boy Nobody delivered and how! A compulsively readable YA thriller that reads like a runaway freight-train. Knocking you down with its intensity and emotionally jarring narrative. Featuring a teenage (late teens) soldier trained to be an assassin, the book runs straight as an arrow with a mission that goes a little awry and plugs the boy soldier’s world into chaos. And yes. It involves a girl.
Now if you get the impression from the above brief that this book is yet another YA – filled with angst-ridden teenagers with unbalanced hormones driving their decisions – then bam! Are you wrong, my friend. The boy nobody is a cold calculating machine – bred for violence and programmed by a mysterious institution called…well, The Program. And so we settle for a teenage viewpoint of things unraveling through the book. Without the excess baggage. And it makes for a very sharp entertaining read. It is violent yes and probably is walking the tight-rope when it comes to YA cordons for acceptable levels of violence but it is essential to the story and thus makes for a very satisfying believable read.
So having been “institutionalized” into the Program at a young impressionable age, our hero’s memories are a jumbled mass of black and white pictures flickering past. But with the current mission – to infiltrate into the inner circle of the New York Governor to assassinate him – by be-or-boy friending his daughter in the High School (For a teenage assassin, this seems to be the most effective modus-operandi – as is established pretty early in the book – friend the “contact” usually the son or daughter of the “target” at school – get a way into the house – kill – get out. Smooth as slick.) Situation gets a little tricky. With his past threatening to spill out and pose difficult questions for Ben (his alias for this mission) he falters. Complications arise in the form of shadowy pursuers who are hell bent on killing him before the mission and of course the girl. The footsie-game of romance between Ben and Samara, the highly independent, opinionated daughter of the governor and his high-school “contact” makes for excellent read. Hesitant, confused and lost. Ben’s emotional vulnerability as a teenager has been nicely sketched out and it is this tightrope – Ben juggling between his confused feelings and jumble of memories on one side and his rock-like loyalty for the Program that brought him up after his real father “ditched” him - a balancing act that is the winner for me. It makes for an emotionally jarring read, one that will definitely make inroads into your heart.
The action and suspense plays out craftily. Short punchy sentences – first person narrative that heightens the sense of tension to dizzying levels. Allen can wring out sentences that lay bare the truths of life beautifully – as seen through the eyes of a child soldier. The topic by itself makes for an interesting premise and no way would I have missed this book. With such a terrific hero and an intriguing plot, I am the Weapon– Book One of the Unknown Assassin series – is the perfect start.
Now am eager to pick up where the first book drops “Ben” off – searching for answers about the Program itself. Allen cleverly masks the intentions of the Program and thus builds out the larger story-arch that am assuming will play out across the rest of the books in the series. I am in this for ride. Four stars for an engrossing plot that balances explosive action and disturbing emotional turmoil.