Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
URL: Candlewick Press
Price: US$ 18.99
Summary [from the publisher]:
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
Young Todd Hewitt is on the verge of manhood and living in Prentisstown, a world without women and where the thoughts of men and “creachers” can be heard. Todd’s dad died of illness and his ma was the “last of the women”, according to Ben, one of two men who are raising him. Todd likes to go to the swamp to collect apples, because it is the only place where he can get a break from men’s “Noise” – their secrets, their thoughts, their memories. While out on a walk with his talking dog, Manchee, Todd encounters a break in the Noise, a pocket of silence. When Todd and Manchee return home, their Noise reveals what happened in the swamp, and Todd, with Manchee, a packed bag, Ben’s big hunting knife, and his mom’s journal, is sent away from the only home he’s ever known.
When Todd encounters a girl on his travels, and comes across towns filled with men and women, everything he’s ever known about the world is changed in an instant. The men of Prentisstown are harboring a terrible secret and will stop at nothing to get Todd back.
I really wanted to love this story. It won several major literary awards, including the 2008 Tiptree Award, and a few of my friends enjoyed it. I had reservations about reading this, because it is the first in a series and I knew it had a cliffhanger ending.
It wasn’t a bad book. It took me just a few pages to get used to Todd’s language that reveals his innocence and lack of education. At the same time, he is a very well-developed character, with strong sensibilities, hope, and a will to survive. From the start, Viola and Todd are bonded together in a quest for freedom and survival. There is no romance, for which I am thankful. Since Viola doesn’t have any Noise, she is shrouded in silence. It takes a little longer for Todd to get to know her, but he eventually does and is able to read her thoughts. The development of Todd’s and Viola’s relationship is my favorite part of this story. One thing I am bothered about is there was no mention at all of Ben’s and Cillian’s relationship. Were they roommates, best friends, lovers? Why was the nature of their relationship kept a secret, while everyone else’s thoughts were laid open? Since they were such a significant part of Todd’s life, I would have liked to know more.
The Knife of Never Letting Go was fast-paced, dark, and compelling. I liked the plot, the suspense, the world, and the concept of hearing every man’s thoughts while women’s are much more difficult to read. I would have liked more well-developed secondary characters and less chase scenes. The story engaged my emotions, made my heart race, and left me exhausted. It also left me feeling vaguely empty and unsatisfied. I knew about the cliffhanger at the end, but nearly every chapter had a cliffhanger as well. At times I felt I was watching a TV show instead of reading a book. And I won’t even talk about Aaron, the charismatic preacher of Prentisstown, who was one of the most one-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered in YA fiction.