Nancy's Reviews > The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
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Feb 10, 2010

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bookshelves: kids-and-teens, post-apocalyptic-dystopia, made-me-cry, sf-fantasy, library-books, outlaw-reviews, shelf-inflicted, award-winners
Recommended to Nancy by: Emilie
Read from March 11 to 21, 2010

Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

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 Goodreads 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.

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Reading Progress

03/11/2010 page 28
5.85% 4 comments
01/31/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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Shellie (Layers of Thought) Excellent review, once again Nancy -
My only thought is, I guess I'm not clear why you weren't as crazy about the book as you would have liked to be? Is it because certain issues where not fleshed out as you would like to have seen them?

Do you think that perhaps it was due to the fact that sequels where planned?

I just noted that book number three in the series is coming out soon, or is out...not sure exactly.


message 2: by Nancy (last edited Mar 23, 2010 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nancy Thanks, Dave and Shellie. :)

I edited my review a little. I realized after I wrote it that I talked more about what I liked than what I didn't.

The preacher was a significant secondary character. It was OK that he was not one of the "good" guys, but he was so poorly developed and cartoonish that he was laughable and ridiculous. He would have been a perfect opportunity to explore the role of religion in Prentisstown.

The cliffhanger ending didn't bother me as much as all the little cliffhangers throughout the story. They had me flipping through pages very quickly when I would have rather savored beautiful prose and connect more deeply with the characters.


Shellie (Layers of Thought) Ah it all becomes too clear - thanks...

I am working on examining the characters in depth a little more in my reading.. but hey its all a process.

I do like it when religion is explored a bit within a book...which is a darn shame. Perhaps in the next two novels? So will you be reading them?


Nancy Yes, I do plan to read the sequels, just not right away. I want to find out what happens to Todd and Viola and learn the secrets of Prentisstown. I'm also hoping for a little more depth and complexity and less action.


Shellie (Layers of Thought) excellent, me too - thanks Nancy!


Emilie i'm sad that this one disappointed you so, nancy.

while i don't remember the details in word choice, i am a little confused about what you are saying about cillian and ben. i thought that they were portrayed as lovers. i thought they use the word partner to describe each other, and speak of an intense love, and i felt it in the way they interacted.

it's true that the word gay is not used, but that felt to me to be more natural for this world, if he'd said gay or queer it would've felt very fake to me. and i interpreted this too, as ness' point to make love between men a normal thing, not something that needs labels and explanations.

are you saying you felt that ness was hiding their relationship?

i am relieved that you knew about the ending. i made a mistake not putting that in my review. need to edit that. i guess i was too giddy, but that cliffhanger thing bothers me and i wasn't happy with the ending-with the book not being able to stand on it's own.


Nancy Emilie, I felt that the language referring to Ben's and Cillian's relationship was subtle, as it should be in a repressive society. I liked how their relationship was treated naturally, but somehow just couldn't feel their love. I also would have liked Todd's "noise" to reveal a little of his feelings about them as a pair, much like kids think of the relationship between their mom and dad.


message 8: by Nancy (last edited Mar 25, 2010 10:50AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nancy It would have been nice If Todd's thoughts revealed past events, maybe a happy time when he, Ben and Cillian did something together as a family. Or a kind word or thoughtful gesture between Ben and Cillian. Just living in the same house wasn't enough to convince me they were a real family.

In spite of its flaws, I still enjoyed the book well enough to read the sequels.


message 9: by Amy :) (last edited Oct 25, 2010 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy :) the girl who waited you said there were too many chase scenes, well i found that the whole book was a chase scene, and you either like it or you dont, thats what the book is, though its a shame you didnt like it that much. and even after you have pointed out the negatives, how you can give this book less than 4 stars is, in my opinion, a miracle,


Nancy Three stars doesn't mean the book was bad, Amyy. It just means the flaws were sufficient enough for me not to give the book 4 or 5 stars. We all have different reading tastes, even among our circle of friends. Thanks for your comment.


message 11: by Velvetink (new)

Velvetink I haven't read the book or know of the author, but it's a great review (as always!). But on the subject on stars I agree we all have our own tastes and our own particular ways of rating books - for instance I don't often give 5 stars or 4 stars,- both have to be out of this world for me in some way or another and that doesn't mean it might be for someone else. It may just have information about something I am seeking as well as being beautifully written. 3 stars for me is good but I notice a lot of people give those ones 4 or 5. Sometimes I'm rating something I read long ago, the memory of it has faded for me so based on my memory it will get 3, though at the time of reading I might have rated it 4/5. 1-2 stars is poor or didn't interest me in the slightest. If truth be told I find it difficult to rate books, everyone has different interests or fields of research. Some popular books people rave about I think are total rubbish or the genre or topic is something I might have enjoyed as a teen but have since grown out of. For reading/rating I follow my heart & interests and not go by what other people rate a book as, although I pay close attention to what people say in their reviews. Everyone's rating is individual and valid. :)


message 12: by Sath (new) - added it

Sath Great review Nancy, I think I'm going to look out for this book.


message 13: by Anthony (new)

Anthony This was the March selection for one of my online book-clubs, and I have to say I havn't started it yet because I'm so caught up in The Hunger Games right now. But your review makes me want to make sure I read it soon. Thanks for another excellent review.


message 14: by Anthony (new)

Anthony I should have explained: your review wants to make me read it soon because I now have seen reviewers I respect with very opposite views of the book, and it will bother me until I know where my own opinion will fall.


Kwesi 章英狮 I do agree that this book had one of the most one-dimensional characters! Jeez, that made my day bad after reading this book. All he did was was to escape from the enemies.


Nancy I am looking forward to your thoughts on the book, Anthony. There was much to like about it in spite of my mixed feelings. Kwesi, have you read the next two books?


Kwesi 章英狮 I don't know if I should, why? Do you like it?


Nancy I was planning to read at least the next book at some point. Whether I read the third depends on how I feel about the second. :)


Kwesi 章英狮 I see, good luck for that. Haha. This was one of my worst books last year.


Nancy I looked for your review, but I just see a lot of comments.


message 21: by Kwesi 章英狮 (last edited Sep 08, 2011 08:46PM) (new) - added it

Kwesi 章英狮 Haha, never mind my book review. My friends were fighting whether they read and finish the book. I have a friend from the other site said that the series is getting better and better which I have doubt.


message 22: by Zinjah (new)

Zinjah It may sound a bit dodgy, but the fact that you confirmed there is no romance in this book has made me want to give it a try (alongside the overall premise, of course). I cherish love as much as the next person, but I'm sick of everything being overrun by romance and love triangles. Blegh!

Thanks for the review. :)


Nancy I agree with you, Ginge. As much as I love romances when I'm in the mood for them, I don't care for romantic subplots in stories where I'm not expecting them. Glad my review was helpful. :)


message 24: by Marissa (new) - added it

Marissa how is it written 1st 2nd or 3rd person


message 25: by Bec (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bec I loved this book so much, but you did make some very good points. Have you read the rest of the trilogy?


Nancy Marissa wrote: "how is it written 1st 2nd or 3rd person"

I believe it was written from first person, in Todd's perspective.


Nancy Rebecca wrote: "I loved this book so much, but you did make some very good points. Have you read the rest of the trilogy?"

Not yet...


message 28: by Bec (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bec The rest of the trilogy is even better, but even more of an emotional roller-coaster, with many teary reunions and chase scenes. Unfortunately, Todd and Viola do start 'getting together' near the end of the third book.


Nancy I guess it's inevitable, with all the stressful things going on in their lives. :)


Sandra Don't even get me started on Aaron! I liked how you described him as "cartoonish," I think that fits perfectly. I haven't finished this yet but so far he's survived 3 or 4 things that should have been fatal and has followed them for weeks basically missing half his face... but no infection what-so-ever. That's hard for me.

And I agree about Ben and Cilian, nothing was clearly stated or hinted at as to the nature of their relationship and I was also wondering.

Despite those 2 comments I am enjoying the book and am almost done! The narration on the audio was great.


Nancy I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more if I'd listened to it. Do you plan on reading the rest of the series?


Midnight Blue Just picked this up from the local library!


Nancy Hope you enjoy it!


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