The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.
This book is the first book the Choas Walking Trilogy: Book 2: The Ask and the Answer, Book 3: Monsters of Men
The Knife of Never Letting Go
By Patrick Ness
I first heard about this book from the Young Adult Reads blog. This place reviews a lot of those cheesy vampire stories, and I was a little reluctant to read this one, even after it had garnered five stars. Then, one morning, I came to school early and I was hanging out in the Library (’cause I am so cool) and I saw this book. And thought eh, and walked on. But I couldn’t get it off my mind and at lunch, I came back into the library and borrowed. Then, over the weekend, I devoured it. And soon you shall see why.
The plot follows as such:
Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement in the New World. Don’t get confused thinking this is a colonial settlement story about the Americas. No, the New World really is a new world, as in not Earth. And there, everyone can hear everyone elses’ thoughts in an explosion of sound called Noise. Noise is more often than not annoying and there is no privacy. Todd absolutely hates it. He hates seeing all the men around him doing men things in which he can’t take part. He hates listening to all their stupid thoughts and he hates that everyone has to listen to his.
Life in Prentisstown is strange and slow and while Todd is exploring the swamp nearby he hears a most curious thing: silence. And finds something even stranger: a girl.
For, alas! All the women in Prentisstown were killed by the same germ that made Noise. Meaning the lovely young woman Todd found shouldn’t exist. But the fact that she does means something is up.
And trust me, something was definitely up.
Todd is very early on into the book, pulled into a whirlwind of action and adventure, and loss and pain and extreme pain, and lies and trust and everything from noise to silence to love. Which is to say, I liked the plot.
It started off at an excellent pace and lots of action, and was able to keep it up throughout the book. There really wasn’t ever a dull moment. The suspense was killer, but more about that when I talk writing.
I thought the plot was really original. I mean, we’ve got tons of vampires who can read minds and emotions nowadays, but I think very few authors are willing to strip all privacy away from their characters. Yet, Ness took the risk and the outcome was brilliant. Honestly, can you imagine living in a world with, A) only men and B) Noise that allows everyone to hear everyone’s thoughts?
It would be chaos! And it is chaos! In fact, the trilogy is called Choas Walking.
Inside all this action and chaos, there young Todd. Todd Hewitt. And he will be a man soon, but he isn’t yet. Todd is a wonderful narrator (yes, this book was first person). He brings life to this strange place with descriptions that fit the mood perfectly; his way of thinking is so unique. I really felt his struggle to be good and to be pure and it was amazing how attached I became to him.
Everything about Todd, his decision making process, the way he sees the world, his willingness to believe, and his unwillingness to trust– all those things mash together really well to create a very vivid and alive character. I rarely feel like I know main characters well and writing in first person is an excellent opportunity to make readers and narrators bond. However, most don’t take this chance and let their characters fall into generic stereotypes.
What was nice about Todd was that he was not a man, thus he didn’t speak, talk, or act like one. People write about children but forget to make them children. They make them wise beyond their years, which is fine every once in a while, but it is totally refreshing to read a story where a kid acts just like a kid would– rashly and based on emotion.
Todd is mature in some ways yes, but his insecurities are what makes him such a rich and well molded character. I am very much looking forward to reading more of the series and hearing more of his thoughts.
The other main character is a girl named Viola, and like Todd, she acts very much like how a child would. She’s a little bit more mature (but duh, that’s because she’s a girl) and a little bit more sensitive, but I liked how she was tough at the same time. And not tough in the I’m-a-tough-girl-so-all-I-can-be-is-argumentative-with-my-male-companion way. She was just strong, someone you could count on and come to for help.
These two young uns move the story along quickly, as they run and catch their breathe and see horrors and wonders and strangely horrible yet entrancing things. Ness writes the story very well. When I say this, I don’t mean that he created Tolkein-esque descriptions and stuff like that. I mean that he did what Suzanne Collins did for the Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which is to say, he wrote action as action.
When Todd found out something startling, he would create suspense, that I swear had me grinding my teeth down to my gums, by having Todd do something like this (note: not a direct quote from the book, but what I remember it being like):
It couldn’t be.
What they did to become men–
What they did that ripped all the boyhood from them–
Snatched away their innocence–
I didn’t want to see it but Ben kept showing it to me.
What have they done?
It’s like freaking insta-suspense, because he kept stopping the sentences right before the most important bit and I kept turning the pages to find out what it was these people were doing (yeah, there is a scene like that in the book). And he kept doing that! He kept stopping right before it got good and sometimes I would scream but that didn’t mean I wasn’t flipping pages fast.
Sometimes when you get a really actiony book, the tendency is to skip to the end where everything is revealed. However what was going on currently in the book was always so interesting that I didn’t want to skip. I didn’t want to miss one bit. I especially didn’t want to spoil the ending.
One very curious thing about the book is the way Todd says things. Directions are Direckshuns. Implications are Implikayshuns. What Ness did here was write in the accent in which Todd speaks. Viola says impressions. Todd says impresshuns. It was a little odd at first, but after a while, all the yers and a’commins actually grew on me and I came to like it. Actually, it was nice that the author took a little bit of time to write some culture into his book. It gave it some added flavor. Yum, yum.
Something especially good about this story was the grey area between good and evil and the emotions that drive the characters to lean one way or another. It was so fascinating to watch these kids make choices we would never even dream of having to make. And how they struggled to make the right choice and lamented when they did not. All very interesting stuff.
Folks before I go, I must let you know that this was a great cliffhanger ending. As such is the case, I will only say that I am forever grateful that the second book is already out and that I don’t have to wait.
I think I covered everything here. Good action. Good action writing. Good nonaction writing. Great characters. Good book.
The Knife of Never Letting Go excellently shows a young boy’s trials as he discovers the truth hidden deep among the lies. It gives a great sense of character and really, really gives a sense of the conflict going on inside Todd. And Viola was great too. I am going to say that this book is going on the Read Again List and that I cannot wait to get my grimy hands on the second book (it’s already out) called the Ask and the Answer.
If you enjoyed series such as Percy Jackson, the Hunger Games or have a short attention span, this book is definitely good for you.
Plus, I think they may be some romance….
Thank you, Patrick Ness, for this wonderful read.
NOTE: on the rating, as with Catching Fire, this book will get a 3.5 because it isn’t literary gold. But it’s still a pretty darn good read.
0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…
1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.
2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.
3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.
4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).
5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.
6 and above. What I want my book to be.