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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Knife Of Never Letting Go Leaves Me With Exactly Two Words: Read It

(Image from Indiebound)
"Your noise reveals you. Reveals us all" (7).
Anyone who's heard me rant about the infernal sameness of the YA novels being published these days probably wonders why I still bother to read them. I wonder that myself. Then, I come across a book so stunning in its originality, so compelling in its telling, and so completely unputtdownable, that I remember why I drag myself through all the Twilight copycats - it's worth wading through the muck to find the gems. The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy, is a brilliant case in point. I read every single one of its 479 pages in a matter of hours. That should tell you everything you need to know.


Okay, let's try a plot summary: The story opens with 12-year-old Todd Hewitt talking to his dog while he wanders the swamplands looking for fresh apples. Could be the opener to a Twain novel, right? Not exactly, because in this case, the mutt responds. Not out loud, but that doesn't matter. In Todd's world, every being emits Noise, a constant stream of internal dialogue audible to all other beings. In a place like this, there are no secrets. At least that's what Todd thinks. Until he catches a disturbing murmur running through the minds of Pretisstown's menfolk. It's indistinct, yet he knows it has something to do with his thirteenth birthday, an anniversary that is fast approaching. As the last child in town, he's been looking forward to the day he'll finally become a man, even if he's unsure exactly what that entails. Of this, however, he's sure: there's an anxious buzz to everyone's Noise. And it has something to do with him.

When Todd makes a strange discovery out in the swamps, everything changes. Suddenly, the men who have raised him are shoving Todd out the door, pushing a pre-filled rucksack onto his back, and screaming at him to run for his life. But there's nowhere to go. The planet's empty save for Prentisstown, at least that's what Todd's always been told. Except, as he's now discovering, everything he's been taught is a lie. There is no time for explanations - the only answers are buried in his mother's journal, a volume he didn't know existed (books were outlawed long ago by their prophet), one that's virtually useless anyway, since he can barely sound out written words. No, it's up to Todd to figure out all the mysteries of the world he thought he knew, while fleeing everything he's ever known.

What results is a desperate journey, a frantic search for truth. As Todd ventures out into the barren land, he'll learn everything the Noise won't tell him, terrible things he can barely stomach. And he'll run, as far and as fast as he can, which is never far or fast enough to leave behind the horrors of the past ...

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a difficult book to classify. It's dystopian, absolutely, but it's also an adventure, a survival story, a romance, all with a little sci fi twist. While elements of the novel are familiar, the tale as a whole is something unique. The prose might take a little getting used to (Todd's spotty booklearning is reflected in misspellings and redneck grammar), but it's so absolutely authentic that it's impossible not to get caught up in Todd's story. It's all so totally absorbing that I literally - literally - could not put the book down. Initially, I planned to start The Ask and the Answer the second I closed Knife, but the story's so intense I'm forcing myself to read something lighter first, just to make sure my heart doesn't pound its way right out of my chest. I need the ticker to stay put, at least 'til I find out what happens to Todd. After that, I can rest in peace knowing I've found a series that makes all those Bella/Edward knockoffs worth it. Chaos Walking. Read it.

(Readalikes: I can't think of anything really similar except, of course, for the other two books in the series)

Grade: A-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (1 F-bomb), violence, and some sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: Another library


  1. Wow! This has been recommended to me by a friend in Goodreads. I think you're right, this is a must read.

  2. definitely a must read. One I'll be looking out for :)

  3. I just downloaded it for my Kindle :))) Thanks for the recommend!

  4. Thanks for the recommendation. Makes me wanna read it now

  5. I LOVE this book (and the other 2 in the series)!! I recommend it at least once a day. So original and emotional.

  6. Oh! I am so excited to hear this! I own the entire trilogy (I got it for Christmas!), but I haven't read it yet. SO, I am happy to hear someone enjoyed it so much.

    AubrieAnne @

  7. This series has become my favorite YA series of all time, precisely because of its originality and the beauty of Ness's writing. So glad to find another fan.:)

  8. Yes, yes, yes. So original. And for some reason I don't mind slogging through the look-alike YA to get to these...

  9. The Chaos Walking trilogy.
    Oh my god.
    IT IS THE BEST DAMN SERIES ON THIS PLANET! I cannot recommend it enough.
    But instead of me rambling and rambling on about it like I've done so many times before, I'll just show everyone my comment to Patrick Ness' site.
    It's mostly about Monsters of Men btw...:

    Okay, I really, really do not know where to start.
    First thing - I don't know whether to love you or hate you, Patrick, for taking me through such emotions and trauma and extreme sadness then hopeful happiness then everythingness then having my thoughts occupied nearly entirely for two weeks about Monsters of Men and having probably about 20 hours sleep since the book came out... But, no, of course I love you for it. How can I not?
    You have taken me down a very rocky road. These books have major turns and bends then sudden twists. They have massive drops where I feel I'm going to fall... (fall right into New World, now wouldn't that be nice? - if it got me the chance to meet the real live Todd Hewitt, I don't think I could miss it). Then something else happens and I feel I'm slowly but surely climbing back up the road again. There's always that hope, while the seemingly never ending struggle of making it to the end, to peace. And do they ever make it? Well, I kind of have to make that up myself, don't I! I've had many dreams of how the story continues for me.
    And although it's SO massively upsetting now they're over, after a year of waiting (that wasn't fun), I think you've made the right decision not to write any extra books linking on. It's good you know where to stop, that half the beauty of these books is your imagination and how the 'what happens next?' is down to yourself. I also love how you've not described the appearances of the characters practically at all. It's great to compare my versions of Todd and Viola with my friends' - oh yes, did I mention? Since I HAVE NOT STOPPED talking about them for the past year, I've got 20 people I know onto them. Not just onto them, actually, but OBSESSED with them, like me. Including my 22 year old brother, and next to conquer is my 56 year old dad, haha. I really do think he'll love the comedy value you add to your books.
    And if I'm not good enough friends with someone to go blurting on and on about the books to them, then I'll write quotes in their logbooks (our school daily planners) from Todd and Manchee and Viola, along with a little description.


    I've written too much so I'll have to post another comment ><

  10. (continuing)

    And these 20 people I've got obsessed is just within the last two months alone. Before that I sort of wanted to keep the stories to myself for a while, be the FIRST to read them because, I dunno, I sorta feel like I own the characters. Because I've started this whole little craze in our school, just by picking them up from the shelf at Waterstones, I feel like I own them? Crazy, shh. But Todd Hewitt is mine, hehe sorry girls.
    I've read the Knife and Ask four times each (first time I read them both, I finished them within a day), but I'm not sure about the third. It took me two days, that was me savouring it and trying to read slowly. It took me through joy and horror at once, then obviously many many tears. So I'm unsure about whether I want to put myself through all that again xD And when I'd finished, at midnight exactly, I sat up in bed for the next 5 hours, literally, thiinking about everything that had happened. Then that week I had an important exam, counting for nearly all of a GCSE. Not good! I couldn't concentrate on it at all. But I definitely will read it again one day though. At the moment, however, all three books are lent out to various friends, who are constantly texting me saying "OMG! This just happened" and such. I love it :) I was on a 2 hour phone call with a friend - it cost me over a fiver, but it was so worth it - who was just finishing my copy of Monsters of Men a few days ago, and she had much the same reaction as me. And she then proceeded to email me about how much she loved them, and listing quotes from each individual character. One of our all time favourites: "Good poo, Todd."
    Oh, good ol' Manchee.
    And the Mayor, oh. my. god. He is the most fascinating, interesting, untrustworthy (but can you trust him at times? CAN you?) scary and unpredictable but so totally amazing character ever. Even though I love our heroes Todd and Viola more than ANYTHING, the Mayor will stick with me the longest, I think. And am I the only one who gets reminded an awful lot of Adolf Hitler when reading his parts? I've been studying Hitler, his rise to power, and his control over Germany, in history the past few months. And nearly everything about him reminds me of the Mayor. It's quite weird. His seeming unstoppable greed for power; his amazing ability to speak to and convince crowds; his fake smiles and promises then brutal lies as he turns his back on everything he's said; his untrustworthyness and unpredicatablility; then when coming to power, his restrictions and bans (like, EXACTLY THE SAME with the burnings of books - censorship); his false hopes with people, pretending he was going to make everything great again; his belief that men and women were different and should be separate; his willingness to fight, love of war; his greatness at ordering others and clever tactics; the way they are both mad, but know how to turn that into extreme intelligence; and even their... well, that would be spoilered out, I'm sure. But, the way Hitler - cough - didn't like it when it didn't go his way after the war. And the list could go on.

    Jeez, I just realised how much I've written - sorry! And I could carry on for another five hours I'm sure. I'll stop soon though, I'm probably very much boring you or more likely you stopped reading ages ago.

    Chaos Walking is the best series that will ever be written. I could put all my money on it. I've read a great deal of books in my 15 years, and this is a million times better than all of them put together. I can't believe that anyone else can love Chaos Walking more than me. Sorry about my confusing road metaphor and great length of rambling but basically I just want to THANK YOU for writing books that deserve to be held higher than any other and should be read by everyone and anyone.

    Here you come, indeed.

    ahh there you go.
    In short, I love this series (:

  11. EEEK. Do I dare say it....ok I will. I didnt like it. Started skipping pages. Oh well, cant like them all.

  12. Not sure if I missed something on the site, but any thoughts on posting a link to see reviews by grade? I wanted to see all the books you gave an A grade to...


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