The world of Nobody (Egmont 2013) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is all about energy. I know that’s not the most enticing statement to start out with, but bear with me. See most people both give and receive energy with the world around them and it’s how people connect with one another. However there are some people, called nulls, who just take lots of energy while being incapable of giving any back to anyone. They tend to have lots of charisma and inspire slavish devotion while not giving a crap about anything other than themselves. So they’re all basically sociopaths and since they tend to do things like start cults and hack up women and bury them in their backyards, a secret society devoted to taking the nulls out has existed for hundreds of years. In order to fight the nulls when they get too out of hand, The Society (real creative name there) trains Nobodies to be assassins. Nobodies are on the opposite end of the spectrum from nulls, meaning they give out lots of energy but are incapable of receiving any. No one ever notices them, remembers them, or cares about them one way or the other. They are so unremarkable that they can even fade into nothingness, i.e. become invisible, go through solid objects, float, run real fast, etc. I didn’t really pay close attention in science classes and my physics teacher was kind of a nutcase, so I have no idea how much bullshit this concept really is, but just go with it. Anyway, you can see how these kind of abilities would be advantageous for clandestine activities, but the Society’s training methods involve torture and emotional abuse, so you know they’re not on the up and up.
Got it? Ok, PLOT. 17 year-old Nix receives orders to kill a teenaged girl named Claire and is told that she’s a very dangerous null. However he’s shocked when his target actually sees him and starts screaming bloody murder. That’s never happened before! So naturally he becomes obsessed with her, saves her from other Society assassins because HE’S the only one who gets to kill her, kisses her, freaks out some more, and is generally very slow to realize that Claire can see him because she’s a Nobody too. Claire is so used to being ignored and forgotten, even by her own parents, that when a boy pays attention to her, even if that attention comes in the form of a threat to her personal safety, she’s intrigued. Nix realizes that if the Society lied to him about Claire, then they might have lied to him about some of his other targets and maybe he hasn’t been killing for noble reasons after all. Even though he instantly loves Claire, Nix vows to stay away from her because he’s an unworthy KILLER, ignoring the fact that he didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Claire is heartbroken because she too fell instantly in love and Nix is the only one who gets her. If you’re seeing shades of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan here, you are not alone. Also, I get that 1) these are two emotionally abused and traumatized kids and 2) they’re hormonal teenagers so they’re predisposed to be all emo, but the first 1/3 of this book is sooooooooo melodramatic. There are lots of dramatic pronouncements and shaking fists at the heavens while shouting, “WHY?” It gets really repetitive and irritating after awhile.
Things pick up once they start focusing on the secret society conspiracy stuff. Claire and Nix know they’ll never be safe since The Society has all of their sensors (people who have a little something extra genetically that help them sense the nulls and nobodies) out looking for them, so they decide to unravel the society’s secrets and Take. Them. Down. They discover that the Society is trying to worm their way into the government and are developing dangerous drugs. Also, they are targeting Claire because they automatically kill any nobody that is discovered after the age of 5. Apparently after that, nobodies are a lot harder to brainwash and tend to balk at pesky things like murder.
So they happen to come across a group of sensors and Nix discovers he doesn’t have to kill after all, he can just injure them badly. It’s very heartwarming. One of these sensors also happens to be the one person in the whole organization who is sympathetic to their plight and wants to help them bring it all down, albeit on one condition. What a crazy, random, happenstance! I’m not going to spoil whether or not they’re successful, but I will say that there was a lot of cool action stuff that was then nearly ruined by a plot twist so ridiculous that I would have thrown the book down in disgust if I hadn’t already stopped caring.
I’m not going to lie, I mainly picked up this book because the plot description reminded me of the Buffy episode where Clea DuVall plays a girl who becomes invisible because no one pays attention to her and she starts terrorizing Cordelia and gets taken away by the government at the end to become an assassin. Unfortunately, the author took a less funny, more heavy-handed approach than Buffy did to the material, which made it a lot less enjoyable. Some of it might just be a personal taste thing and I did enjoy the action and conspiracy stuff, but overall the story was too overwrought and the plot relied too much on coincidences and short-cuts, to really hang together. I would recommend watching that episode of Buffy instead.