Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3931-0
Candlewick Press

Todd Hewitt is the last boy is Prentisstown. All the men in Prentisstown can hear the thoughts of other men and animals. These thoughts are called Noise. As Todd nears his 13th birthday, he learns that even when you can hear other men's thoughts that there can be secrets. His adopted fathers send him running for his life from power-hungry Prentiss and his men. Once he's on the run, Todd finds the first girl he's ever seen, Viola. Viola crashed in a nearby swamp and join Todd on the run from the men of Prentisstown. On their travels Todd learns that everything he knew was a lie and now he and Viola are racing to warn the new settlers of the dangers that lurk on New World.

If your looking for a fantasy where the main character speaks with intelligent animals and good always wins, don't look here! Ness begins the book by slapping the reader in the face with the reality of hearing a dog talk and that's about the nicest reality check you get. That's not to say there are not good people or good moments in this book, but it is stark cold reality with no punches held back. The reality is not ours obviously, but it sucks the reader in and doesn't let go.
When Viola enters the story, she is the first silence that Todd has ever known. To extend that to the readers, she doesn't speak and so she remains as silent a blank to the read as she does to Todd. As Todd slowly gets used to reading her face and body language, she slowly begins to speak more opening herself as slowly to the reader as she does to Todd. Ness, also, strategically keeps ideas and images which Todd doesn't want to believe from the reader so that even in a first person narrative there are secrets as there were secrets even though everyone could read other's Noise. At times this drove me nuts, because I wanted him to give up the good and let the 'sad history' of Prentisstown out into the light, but overall that's a minor quibble with a very well written opening to what I'm guessing will be a trilogy and an excellent coming of age story.

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