Rebekah's Reviews > The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
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's review
Sep 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, fiction, others-recommend, owned-by-me-or-someone-i-know, science-fiction, series, young-adult
Read from June 27 to August 09, 2012

If you're looking for a cheery book, don't choose this one. If you're looking for a book that is a good description of life, choose this one.

I don't want to review this too much without first reading the other books, because I find that trilogies are made even better when the full story comes together. In this, the first full-length book from the Chaos Walking trilogy, Ness builds the foundation for a literal New World. Humans can no longer live on Earth, because we messed it up with our excess and our greed and our pride. Now we've been released to do the same thing to New World.

As the story unfolds page after page and step after step toward Haven, the first settlement on New World and the hope at the end of the journey, the reader is brought into the story in remarkable and heart-wrending fashion. Into the hope. Into the terror. Into the disappointment. Into the journey from child to adult.

My recommendation as you read The Knife of Never Letting Go is that you have book two, The Ask and the Answer close by. You won't want too much of a delay before you continue the story.

***Review of the full Chaos Walking trilogy****
In the Chaos Walking series, Ness writes about a future New World, which is essentially a new planet much like Earth. Because humans have destroyed Earth with our pollution and our fighting, colonists have taken to spaceships in search of a new plant to call home. The settlers have come in waves, so by the time the series begins with The Knife of Never Letting Go, there have been humans on New World for a couple of decades. The entire trilogy takes place during the few months between the scout ship's arrival on behalf of the new wave of colonists and the arrival of the convoy of ships holding thousands of those colonists. I sort of felt like it took me about that long to read the trilogy, too.

Because the first group of colonists arrived years earlier and have had little access to education--their focus mostly on survival at the beginning and then on the drama created by their mayor--the language used by Todd, the narrator, was very hard to follow for me. For the first third of The Knife of Never Letting Go, I faced a constant internal debate about whether to quit or continue. Ultimately I decided to skim, which is a mortal sin of reading as far as I'm concerned. It comes just before quitting a book altogether. I ended skimming several sections until things settled in to a system that I could follow. Then, and through The Ask & The Answer, the trilogy really got good.

There is action and a sweet friendship between a boy, a girl, and a dog. Publisher's Weekly calls The Ask & The Answer grim and beautifully written, and I have to agree with that. As Todd and Viola, on the run from an army built of men from Todd's hometown, progress on their journey to Haven and then, ultimately, settle in to their new roles in that town, they face a journey of hope and friendship and love and tension. It truly is grim and beautifully written. I found myself caring deeply about the fate of these two children-becoming-adults and wishing that fate would smile kindly on them and actually give them something for which to hope.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen--for Todd and Viola or for the reader. By the time I settled in to Monsters of Men, I began to skim again and just wish it all would end. Ness brings on another narrator in Book Three (whose name I've intentionally left off so as not to spoil any of the story), and I couldn't stand reading those sections. I felt preached at and judged. This trilogy, which was that grim and beautifully-written coming-of-age story about hope became New Age-y and judgmental.

At the end of the day, I'm glad I invested the time in this trilogy, if only for the end of Book One and Book Two. The messages of hope and love and forgiveness are lovely. I just wish they'd been packaged with less judgment.

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