Amanda's Reviews > The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
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's review
Jul 07, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: kick-ass, young-adult, blog
Read from July 07 to 13, 2010

In a world where we're bombarded with technology, our senses are often overwhelmed by the amount of noise and it's becoming increasingly difficult to find true quiet anymore (especially since most of us just plug into our computer or iPod as soon as it is quiet). A constant stream of sound and images feed us information, prod us toward rampant consumerism, and entertain us. I've become increasingly aware that many of my students seem uncomfortable with simple quiet--always wanting some sort of noise to help them concentrate and focus. It's sad that our world has become one in which quiet is such a rare and undervalued commodity. And that, according to Patrick Ness, is the inspiration for The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Inventive and unlike anything I've ever read, The Knife of Never Letting Go is billed as a young adult dystopian but there's very little that's young adult about it other than a 13 year old protagonist. In fact, a lot of the language is violent, graphic, and brutal by young adult standards, but it has to be to capture the world that has been created by Ness.

Todd Hewitt is only days away from becoming a man by Prentisstown standards. Prentisstown is a town on New World, a planet that is being "settled" by the people of earth. What's unusual about Prentisstown, though, is that it's a town that consists entirely of men. The women were killed twelve years earlier when the Spackle, the indigenous alien race, utilized germ warfare in an attempt to win the war against the pioneers. The men, however, were not entirely immune to this germ. Instead of killing them, it made every man's inner-thoughts (both verbal and visual) visible to those around him. There are no secrets in the Noise. As a means of coping, some men turn to drink, others attempt to run away, and some kill themselves. Life here is bleak under the totalitarian rule of Mayor Prentiss and the bizarre radical teachings of the holy man, Aaron. As far as Todd knows, Prentisstown is the only place on the planet.

As Todd nears his 13th birthday, he finds something in the swamp that shouldn't exist--silence. Shortly after discovering this peculiarity and unable to find its source, he's forced to flee Prentisstown and go on the run with only his dog, a knapsack of supplies, a hunting knife, and a book written for him by his mother. To tell you the how and why for all of this would be to ruin the suspense that drives the entire novel. Todd struggles for survival and begins to unravel the lies that he's been told his entire life. During his journey, he discovers the truth about New World and about Prentisstown.

The novel is told in first person stream of consciousness, which really works because it's like we as readers are able to "hear" Todd's Noise just as the other inhabitants of Prentisstown would. It also means that we learn as Todd learns and, as his mind shies away to avoid truths that he can't yet accept, information is sometimes withheld from us. In addition, some of the words are written in dialect to help better capture how Todd sounds. There are some unusual narrative techniques used throughout, such as a different font to indicate the Noise of different individuals and animals (that's right--even animals have Noise; I particularly enjoyed the depiction of Todd's dog Manchee) as Todd encounters them. Instead of finding them gimmicky, I thought it a very effective way of visually demonstrating the intrusion of other people's thoughts into one's own.

In some ways, the novel reminded me of the television series Firefly, but only in that these space travelers are the new pioneers. While they have a lot of new technology, the struggle for survival is a very real one and never certain. The novel ends with one hell of a cliffhanger and I find myself for the first time in a long time wanting to dive right into the second novel of the series.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
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07/07/2010 page 85
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Piper Spot on review! What an absolutely amazing book! I love the way the narration manages to become almost poetic in places because of the illiteracy of the narrator. Very telling for a class of students who persist in writing essays in text-speak lol!

I now have 2 days to finish The Ask and The Answer before Amazon deliver Monsters of Men and the other Carnegie shortlist books for our shadowing that I'm running at my school!

Amanda Thanks! I thought this was a fascinating book--and unlike anything I've ever read in young adult fiction (or most adult fiction for that matter). Ness definitely kept the suspense mounting. I still haven't read Monsters of Men yet because all of my copies are constantly checked out of my classroom, but I'm smuggling one home for the summer.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean by "shadowing"?

Amanda Alxx wrote: "great review! and Funny, i was thinking of firefly through the whole book. Though, mainly because Viola reminds me SO much of river. Did you pick up on how much alike they are?"

Excellent point. Honestly, I never really thought about that, but, yes, particularly in the beginning, she does seem very River-like. Now I need to go back and re-read this (and re-watch Firefly)!

Angel " It also means that we learn as Todd learns and, as his mind shies away to avoid truths that he can't yet accept, information is sometimes withheld from us. "

This couldn't have been worded better. I have read a lot of the reviews here, both before and after I read the book myself, and you would not believe how many people simply didn't comprehend this! Thank you!!

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