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