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I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin): Allen Zadoff

Book: I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin, Book 2)
Author: Allen Zadoff
Pages: 432
Age Range: 13 and up

I Am the Mission is the second book in Allen Zadoff's The Unknown Assassin series (following Boy Nobody, which was renamed I Am the Weapon). Like the first book, I Am the Mission is a fast-paced, suspenseful book in which the reader isn't quite sure who to root for. Book 2 picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book. The variously-named narrator (we do eventually learn his real name) has gone AWOL from his shadowy government organization, The Program. He is in hiding as a camp counselor when a crew from Homeland Security extracts him. His "Father" figure, the head of The Program, gives him a new assignment, one intended to test his loyalty.

The boy's mission is to penetrate the tryouts for an ultra-right-wing summer camp that is apparently radicalizing teens and assassinate the head of that organization, a charismatic man named Eugene Moore. He is not supposed to actually enter the camp, because a prior operative from The Program disappeared there (and is now presumed deceased). The boy ends up out of communication with The Program, and not sure who to trust. I mean, when you are a secret teenage assassin, who can you trust, really? Happily for the reader, the boy's one friend from the previous book, Howard, makes an appearance. 

Like the first book, I Am the Weapon has a premise that may disturb some readers: a teen who has been taught to kill people, quickly and stealthily, and who has no semblance of a normal life. But if you can accept that premise, it's a well-constructed, twisty thriller. The boy does commit one act that I found ... disturbing, I guess, in part because it's clearly a mistake. But he shows hints of humanity, too. Zadoff also provides more background for how he ended up in The Program, and why he is the cold-blooded, fearless killing machine that he is. Fans of the first book will definitely not want to miss this one. 

Zadoff has a knack for quick characterizations, like this:

"He has a masterful way of using truisms to support his ideas. One can easily agree with the truth of the surface statements without questioning the ideas themselves." Chapter "It's Moore", digital ARC (The ARC, at least, doesn't have conventional chapter titles. The first sentence of each chapter is formatted as a title, instead.)

He also muses quite a bit in this book on the nature of fear. Like this:

""The part they don't understand..." he says. "If you don't feel fear, you don't feel joy or love. Not in any real way. Without the fear, the risk is gone. And without risk, rewards don't matter. You're left with nothing much at all. You're numb." ("My Name is Francisco Gonzalez", he says.)

I Am the Mission is written in first-person present tense, which helps to keep up the suspense. The narrator is a surprisingly sympathetic character for a stone-cold killer. Attempting to figure him out is perpetually interesting. Recommended for older teen and adult readers for whom the fascinating aspects of the premise outweigh the disturbing aspects. Personally, I couldn't put it down, and eagerly await the next book. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

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