Monday, September 24, 2012

The Knife of Never Letting Go

by Patrick Ness
Read: September 2-4, 2012
Published: May 5th 2008 by Walker
Source: Library book
Category: YA - sci/fi, dystopian 
Series: Book 1 in the Chaos Walking trilogy

Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

I read The Knife of Never Letting Go (hereafter shortened to The Knife) along with my friend Asheley @ Into the Hall of Books. It was her second time through the book, and we emailed back and forth quite a bit while reading it (she LOVES this series). I think my experience with this story was even BETTER, because I was able to talk about it while I was going through it. Thank you, Asheley! 

The setting:
Old World aka Earth, has been decimated, so humans have sought a new place to live, creating a New World on a different planet. New World has similar features to earth, but it is green and habitable, which earth is no longer. The colonizers soon discovered that on this new planet, you can hear everything that everyone around you is thinking, and they can hear you too. Called Noise, the constant inner thoughts of man  create a cacophony of sound that never ends. Even animals can be heard. There is one major exception to this, a Quiet amidst the Noise. But you have to read the book to find out what it is. 

The set up:
Todd has lived his whole life in Prentisstown on New World. The Noise is all he knows. He is one month away from turning 13 and becoming a man (they have 13 months in New World, which means in our world he'd already be 14) when he finds something out that changes everything. Suddenly, Todd has to reevaluate everything he knows - while running for his life. 

The characters:
The Knife is told through the eyes of Todd Hewitt. A boy who has lived his entire life hearing everyone's thoughts around him. Therefore, he is pretty shocked to find out that he's been lied to his entire life. I really fell in love with Todd throughout the story. One of my favorite parts of this book was watching his journey, and the ways that he grew through it. Todd makes mistakes, and there were times that I wanted to scream at him to STOP IT or TELL SOMEONE. But I tried not to let my adult perspective crowd out Todd's. I think his behavior made sense for who he was, and I sympathized with him, even when he made Very Bad Decisions. 

Todd encounters Viola on his journey. As Todd has no experience with girls at all, he is amazed at how different she is from him. It is also fun to watch them learn to interact with each other.  I love the relationship that Todd and Viola develop as they travel together. It is not romantic (yet). But there is a depth to it because of shared purpose and experiences. She is his first honest peer relationship, and the added complication of her being a different gender makes everything more interesting. 

Manchee - Todd's talking dog. Not just for comic relief (although he does provide that as well), Manchee is integral to the story. I grew very attached to him.

Bad People - There are a lot of them, and some just Would.Not.Go.Away! 

Helpful People - Thankfully, Todd encounters some of those as well. Two of my favorites were Hildy and Wilf.

The writing:
I LOVE how The Knife is written. The book spells words like Todd speaks them, which is to say not always correctly. This makes his character and the world where he lives stand out as unique (in a good way!). The book is written through Todd's eyes and one thing I love about it is how well Patrick Ness captures the way that Todd sees the world. Mr. Ness accomplishes this is in the rhythm of how Todd speaks, and in all the ways Todd describes the world around him. It is BEAUTIFUL. I can't tell you how many gorgeous quotes are in this book. 

The quote below comes from the beginning where Todd is describing the mysterious Quiet. When I read this paragraph, I fell in love with the writing in the book. 
It's like a shape you can't see except by how everything else around it is touching it. Like water in the shape of a cup, but with no cup. It's a hole and everything that falls into it stops being Noise, stops being anything, just stops all together. It's not like the quiet of the swamp, which is never quiet obviously, just less Noisy. But this, this is a shape, a shape of nothing, a hole where all noise stops. 
Some more on Todd:
Besides the writing, Todd  - and the way he grows - is what made this story great for me. From what he knows at the beginning to the people he meets and the information that he discovers along his journey, Todd changes in big ways. He faces terrible situations and makes bad decisions. But he remains honest and true to himself. I love Todd's honesty. The way he faces his mistakes head on. The way he rages at himself. The raw emotion within him. I love that he is young. As the story progresses, he looses what innocence he had, but he still remains fundamentally the same person. I am really looking forward to following his progress through the next books. 

I noticed some parallels with - and critique on the idea of colonization. I'm interested to see how/if this plays out through out the second and third novels. There are others, but it's hard to articulate them without spoilers.

The Cliffy:
The Knife is definitely written to be part of a series and it ends at a cliffhanger that is OFF THE CHARTS. It is pretty much a ten on the cliffhanger scale. Thankfully, book two and three are released already.  

Love Triangle Factor: N/A
Rating: 4.5 stars


  1. I read this book several months back and STILL haven't written a review. I liked it but it's complicated. First off I must have been half way through the book before I realized THEY WEREN"T ON EARTH. I have no idea how I missed THAT. I still don't know if it was something I missed in the beginning or if I am just a moron or whatever but when I did realize it I swear I did a total faceplant.

    The way this book looks at human nature made me so uncomfortable (which was the point, I guess.)Like the scene with the native guy at the campfire. Between that and the whole Manchee thing (GOOD GRIEF) I was kinda shell shocked when the book ended. I guess that's why I haven't picked up the sequel yet. Does any of what I'm saying make sense? I really didn't talk the book over w/ anyone after reading it I just sat back and reflected on my own. Now months later I feel like I could tackle more:)

    Sorry for the ramble! I did enjoy your review, Lauren! Maybe we can read Book 2 together, some discussion might make reading it easier:)

    1. Yes. The setting is confusing. I had to stop and think that through a bit. Asheley told me that there is a prequel from Viola's perspective, which I think would have made some of that clear. AND I completely get where missing a piece like where the book is located could throw off a story.

      It helped me so so much to talk through this with Asheley as I read it. I think I was able to handle it more and also appreciate the story better because of it. And I would LOVE to read book 2 with you as well. There are many uncomfortable themes in this book and some really tough situations but I think it made the book better. And Manchee. I KNOW. I can't even...

      I'm sure that book 2 and 3 will be even MORE intense, so I GET why you couldn't go right into it. I'm glad that I didn't push through them all at once. BUT YES, let's read the next one together sometime soon.

    2. Book Two and Book Three ARE more intense. Be ready! But we all can do it! WE CAN!!! YAYYY!!!!!

      I'm as patient as I can be. For real. And also as happy as I can be.

  2. Okay, I admittedly skimmed because I have this on hold from the library right now and I really like to know as little as possible before going into a book that I'm pretty sure I'm going to love, but I'm still thrilled to see such a positive reaction from you for this one. I just read A Monster Calls, which was beautiful, and has me so excited to read more Patrick Ness--especially since this whole series is out! The themes sound really interesting. To me, commenting on things (like colonization) is what SciFi is really about--not just cool storeis, so hopefully there's a lot of good development there. =)

    1. Oh I hope you really like this book. There are several deep themes in here that made me really think. Some interesting gender issues too. Definitely not just fluffy scifi. And I am SO glad that I discovered this with all books published. I don't think I could handle waiting a year between stories.

      I haven't read A Monster Calls though. I'll have to check out your review for that. But if it is part of a series and it ends anything like this one, I'll want to wait until it's fully out to start it.

    2. OH YAY Heidi!!!

      Let us know how you like it!

  3. Ok. This is like a ray of sunshine in a weird week for me.

    I don't even know what to say except that I love this book so much. I love Patrick Ness so much. I love Todd Hewitt in a way that is ridiculous. Everything, everything about these books, this series.

    I am SO GLAD you liked The Knife.

    A Monster Calls is standalone, very short, and very different.

    1. Oh I did love this one. And I'm not sure I would have ever paid it any attention - let alone read it - without you. So THANK YOU for your endless campaign for this book. It was really great. And I'm looking forward to experiencing the rest of the series with you as well. I've found I love books MORE, and read on an even DEEPER level when I am able to discuss them as I go along. Thanks for reading all my rambling thoughts on this.

      I'll have to find your review of A Monster Calls. I know nothing about it. But I'm definitely a Patrick Ness fan now.


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