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Dan McKeon
Wonder Rush
Dan McKeon, author

Young Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

Wendy Lockheart has been known by many names—none of them her own. With each new school, she is assigned a new identity and a new foster family, but the same mission—kill whoever she is told to kill. Most agents in her network of female teen assassins begin training at age ten, but for Wendy it has encompassed her entire life. Abducted at birth, she was engulfed in a world of psychological manipulation, brainwashing, and physical training. At seventeen years old, Wendy is the most highly trained assassin in the agency. “Wendy Lockheart” is her twenty-fourth identity and one that won’t be hers much longer, which is unfortunate. She finally found a place to call home. She has an inexplicable connection to her friend, Amaya. Her foster family is caring, and she loves her foster brother, Corey, who has cerebral palsy. Nonetheless, her days as “Wendy” are limited. They always are. After carrying out a hit on an alleged drunk driver, conflicting information leads Wendy to suspect corruption within the ranks of the agency. Intent on discovering the truth, Wendy intentionally botches an operation, making her the agency’s next mark. As their dark intentions come to light, Wendy realizes she must destroy the organization that shaped her in order to discover the person she truly wants to be—that is, if they don’t kill her first.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot: In this dystopian YA novel, a seventeen-year-old girl has been trained from birth by the agency as an assassin, and, twenty-four identities later, Wendy Lockhart is really good at killing. Wendy is intelligent, bold, a risk-taker, and utterly ruthless. The only person she seems truly to care about is six-year-old Corey, her brother in her current foster family, who has cerebral palsy. It is when Wendy accidentally risks Corey’s life, and then assassinates a purported drunk driver that she realizes just how corrupt the agency is and decides to try to leave, driving the action of the story forward.

Prose/Style: The rich visual detail in this debut novel speaks to Dan McKeon’s experience as a screenwriter, but the dialogue is sometimes awkward and there could be more distinction in the voices of the different characters.

Originality: The premise of a female teenage assassin makes this an original from the start. That she kills the likes of embezzlers and pedophiles without a second thought puts her in a singular category. McKeon develops her backstory to a sufficient degree to make this all plausible, if somewhat distasteful. The “outside the lines” premise and the detail with which McKeon develops the events that have led to Wendy’s current situation make this a highly engaging read that will interest adults as well as younger readers.

Character Development/Execution: Wendy is brutal, independent, resourceful and determined to survive her upbringing and the world into which she has been thrust. Her decision to try to leave the agency after questioning an assignment leads to her reinventing herself as the person she wants to be, rather than the one she has been programmed to become by the demented directors of the agency.

Date Submitted: August 10, 2021