Today marks the first day of the Back to School Blog Tour
for Boy Nobody
by Allen Zadoff
. I read Boy Nobody last month, and I was blown away by this story of a teenage assassin. The story took so many twists and turns, and the ending left me completely shocked. (You can check out my review here.)
I had some burning questions I wanted Allen to answer, and you can see that interview below, along with an excerpt of Boy Nobody. And the best part? Allen is giving away 3 copies of Boy Nobody
to U.S. readers.
Publication Date: June 11, 2013, by Little Brown
: 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.
Purchase Boy Nobody:
Allen Zadoff is the author of the new thriller series, Boy Nobody. His YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and was a YALSA selection for Most Popular Paperbacks of 2012. His second novel was My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies, the story of a techie hiding from life after a family tragedy. His third novel Since You Left Me is set in Los Angeles and tells the story of a religious school student who doesn’t believe. He also wrote the memoir for adults, Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.
Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Visit him on the web at www.allenzadoff.com.
, Facebook BOY NOBODY EXCERPT
Wednesday. Day 1.
I appear at a famous private school on the Upper West Side.
The Program has inserted me into the system overnight. I am in the school’s computer—my name and a false academic history along with a letter of acceptance and a transfer order. As of this morning, my paperwork is in place and I will appear on the teachers’ rosters.
The rest is up to me.
I’m sitting in a cluster group, what other schools would call a homeroom. There are mixed ages in the same room, students from grades nine through twelve, all forced together. Sam is in a nearby room, but I am here. By design.
First impressions are everything in high school, but without knowing Sam, I don’t know what my first impression should be. I could come in guns blazing, an ironclad identity in place. But that would be too much of a risk. First I have to find out where she is in the pecking order. The daughter of the mayor could be many things. To determine what exactly, I must see her in action. I need to know where she is in the social order, and just as importantly, where she perceives herself to be.
Father and I discussed this via a secure e‑mail exchange. He agreed that it’s better for me to slip in, work the angles until I’m on the inside. We decided to place me in a different cluster group so I could get my bearings before I begin.
“Are you new?” a girl in the cluster group says. She’s in the seat next to mine, a mass of bangs with two overly done eyes staring out at me from beneath. A junior by the looks of it.
“Newish,” I say.
“Why haven’t I seen you before?”
I glance over her shoulder at a boy. Athletic, a tight chest. She’s been sneaking glances at him for the last ten minutes.
“Because you’re obsessed with him,” I say, pointing to the guy.
She turns bright red.
“That’s not funny,” she says.
I hear a soft chuckle from two rows behind me.
It’s a younger guy, maybe fourteen years old, pale with uncombed hair. Definition of dork. Watching.
“Good one,” he says.
“Thanks,” I say.
“You transferred to a new school in April,” he says. “Who did you piss off?”
“I got kicked out of Choate.”
“You must have really screwed up.”
I shrug and go back to reading a book.
Let the rumors commence. It’s a good way to start, inject some mystery into my story. Later I can spin it in a hundred different ways, turn myself into a troubled kid, a victim, or a rebel—whatever is most effective.
For now, I trust this pale kid will let it slip. And I mark him as someone to monitor. I have to be careful with guys who are outsiders. They watch. There’s nothing much else for them to do.
Ten minutes go by as I study the cluster group. I watch the patterns, the behavior, the styles of dress. I listen to the rhythm of the language in this new place. I learn the school procedures. I soak it all in.
At five past eight, three soft tones sound a few seconds apart, and the students stand up.
It’s time to meet Sam.
Q. Boy Nobody (Ben) communicates with his handlers, referred to as Mother and Father, using some very clever and secretive techniques. Was this something you researched, or did you create this for the story?
A. Created for the story. I had the idea of a boy assassin who existed in plain sight, who could fit into any situation. So I gave him a normal iPhone that had a secret super operating system beneath the surface. He could take it out and use it next to you, and you’d never know what was going on. Along the same theme, he communicates with his handlers “Mother” and “Father” as if he were talking to his actual parents, but the phrases that seem so normal are actually encoded. For example, if Mother says, “How’s your homework coming?”, she’s really saying, “How close are you to completing your assassination attempt?” So a kid is sitting in the cafeteria seemingly talking to his parents, but he’s actually on a secret operation for the government.
Q. What is the likelihood that Ben could have a “normal” adulthood, as in marriage, family, and a job that he could actually report to the IRS?
A. I fear that Boy Nobody can never be a normal person again, but I’m not sure about that. He may get a chance to try at the end of the series. When I wrote Boy Nobody, I was thinking a lot about our troops overseas, most of who are very young men and women. How do they do the things that are asked of them in war, then return to society afterwards to live a “normal” life? It’s an incredibly difficult transition. I’m hopeful about our soldiers because there’s help available to them and they have peers who are going through the same thing. I’ve never been a soldier, but my life experience has shown me that’s the formula for getting through hardship—professional help, lots of support, and a community. That applies whether you’re struggling with drug addiction, an eating disorder, grieving the loss of someone you love, or suffering from PTSD.
Boy Nobody’s case is more extreme. He’s a solo operative. It’s not like he can go to support group for former secret assassins. So he’s going to have to find a way to cope with his past while integrating into society. That’s assuming he survives his mission. And there’s no guarantee.
Q. Ben’s relationship with Sam, the daughter of his next target, is a major turning point that causes him to question his life as an assassin. If Sam hadn’t come into his life, do you think he would have continued down that path? What else might have eventually caused him to question the authority of Mother and Father?
A. I love the expression “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I think when we’re ready to learn a lesson, the people appear in our lives who help us do that. In the book, Boy Nobody starts to crack open when he has romantic feelings for the Mayor’s daughter, Samara. But I don’t think this happened because of Sam. I think Boy Nobody was ready to challenge the system. He’s so tightly controlled by his handlers, The Program, it was inevitable that he would rebel in some way. As for other things that might cause him to question authority, I’m going to suggest you read Boy Nobody 2 which comes out next year. The cracks that opened in Book 1 are widening, and Boy Nobody is going to have to make some very difficult decisions that will put his life at risk.
Thanks so much, Allen, for visiting Inspiring Insomnia! And I will absolutely be reading the sequel.
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