Asking questions is not what I do. I’m given an assignment, and I carry it out.
Right now, there are at least 2 or 3 books in my TBR shelf roughly with the same premise as this one. Probably five if I estimate on the side of indulgence and include high fantasy assassin stories. It’s my kryptonite.
Oh fine, it’s one among my many kryptonites. But the cold-blooded killers, honed as a weapon by a covert organization and implanted to assimilate into normal society with a mission to kill is a lure I willingly bite on at any given medium.
The success rate in high fantasy of this ploy has been hit-and-miss for the most part for me but YA-contemporary has been killing it so far (pun not intended but hey, I’m claiming it was).
The fact that this book is being re-released under a different title (it was previously published as Boy Nobody) as a lead-in to the release of its follow-up book I Am the Mission next month is pretty much a spoiler. Although I have to admit, making this into a Bourne Identity-esque young adult series isn’t the worst idea out there.
The Weapon is a sixteen year old boy, and a trained assassin of The Program. Through elaborately devised operations, his mission is to eliminate certain personalities with precise execution and covert means. His next target is the mayor of New York City and he has five days to carry out this task through assimilating himself in the high school where the current queen is the mayor’s daughter, Samara.
I found the story engaging enough though not entirely devoid of eye-roll worthy moments which I shall get into later on. For me, the biggest hurdle for these kinds of stories is being able to sell the protagonist. Heroes like this could either take the cocky, snarky route or the sociopath with a sad past, which doesn’t really make that much of a difference for me because done properly, I kinda like both. The Weapon was a bit more of the latter though with his evident confidence in his skills can sometimes make him seem like the former.
I thought Zadoff did a pretty impressive job in making him believably lethal with his obvious dexterity and willingness to make use of the other tools in his arsenal to carry out the mission. I found the sterile narrative brilliant an added dimension to The Weapon’s character. It was his astute observations on human behaviour, the calculating thought process carried out into action and the healthy dose of humor cleverly paced with tension and grit made this a pretty enjoyable ride.
Okay, mostly enjoyable.
Because soon as Samara’s character was introduced, I found my attention drifting. It’s just I’ve seen this plot device far too many times and without telling you what happens, you can pretty much write out the entire second half of this book ahead of reading it. At first I thought it was her obvious perfection that was putting me off but on further reflection I think it was the way her character was eased in the story that didn’t sit well with me. It was too in-your-face obvious how she fits in the story and their chemistry together just felt flat, their dialogue cloyingly cheesy.
”I think you’re tough outside, but you’re soft inside.”
“I’m soft everywhere,” she says.
I found The Weapon as a striking enough character and I should see the way Samara brought out conflict from him, by making him remember his past life, an effective tool to his evolution as a person. Except I liked the sociopathic killer better and the alternative being offered by the perfect girl wasn’t interesting me that much. So it started to feel like this entitled bitch was taking the nasty, badass hero from me.
I was actually rooting for Erica but soon as the length of her skirt was pointed out, I knew it was a lost cause. The (implied) slutty ones almost always never gets the guy in these kinds of books.
There were also awkward transitions to philosophical discussions with obvious subtext and allusions to the bigger plot. It wouldn’t have bothered me if it was one conversation, but done repeatedly with different variations in the context and characters involved, it loses its intended impact and just comes across contrived (an honestly a little too soapboxy). It takes the reader out of the reality distortion field you have painstakingly built.
You know what else distorts the reality distortion field? It’s when a badass, stone-cold assassin sees the pretty heroine in a dress and his thoughts go to her looking ‘fabulous’, and my thoughts go...
It’s a small, personal nitpick of mine and it might be quite naive and maybe sexist but I’m having a hard time computing the image of a badass, stone-cold assassin saying ‘fabulous’. Or ‘ecru’. Or ‘pizzazz’. Or ‘chai tea latte’.
I’d have easily rounded this down to a 3 but found Howard the token, non-Asian (props for not succumbing to that stereotype by the way) funny nerd too funny to ignore.
”What did you do, Howard?”
“I was playing with myself, okay? In the library. Back in the ninth grade.”
He looks at the ground.
“That’s embarrassing,” I say, “but you can’t be the first guy to look for a happy ending in the library.”
And that wasn’t even the best part about that incident.
Knowing how things ended here, I felt, as a whole, I Am The Weapon did a pretty good job in making me interested enough to look forward to the outcome of this story as a series. It was fun but not without substance and with enough potential for originality to make me look forward to the next instalment.
Review Copy courtesy of the publishers.