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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Review: "The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick Ness

“The Knife of Never Letting Go”

Author: Patrick Ness.

Publisher: Walker Books.

Pages: 496.

Summary (taken from Fantastic Fiction): Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him - something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Cover impressions: Nice, simple and striking. After all the horrors of vampires, werewolves, angels and leaking wombs, I was relieved to return to a comforting familiarity of dystopian sci-fi. It’s a particular favourite of mine, with “The Handmaid’s Tale” being one of my all time favourite books. The dystopian novel has seen a surge of popularity lately, mainly thanks to “The Hunger Games” (which I still haven’t read and will get around to it one day, I swear) and with upcoming novels like “Matched” by Ally Condie setting the hype machine on fire, I can see it becoming the next big thing.

Part one of Ness’s “Chaos Walking” trilogy, “The Knife of Never Letting Go” is gripping literally from the first line. It might go up there as one of my all time favourite first lines along with “The Crow Road” (google it, it’s brilliant.) It only gets better from there, with the pace consistently exciting and Todd’s colloquial, almost stream-of-consciousness narrative giving a natural and very readable tone to the story. It’s not too grown up to realistically portray a teenage boy’s thoughts but it’s also not too immature that it’s beyond obnoxious; there’s just the right amount of slang (to show evidence of Todd’s literacy troubles, which are handled well.) I particularly loved how Todd saw everyone else’s Noise – the different font changes to match each person, the change in font size to show distance and the sheer genius that was the Noise of Todd’s dog Manchee, they all worked fantastically to show the constant chaos of being able to hear everyone’s thought at once. It’s a very effective technique. I thoroughly enjoyed Todd’s character. I understood his frustrations and I wanted him to succeed.

Violence pretty much goes hand in hand with dystopia and this book is no exception. Ness is particularly unflinching in his portrayal of violence. Like the rest of the novel, it’s an extremely unsentimental affair. The New World that Todd is a part of is full of complex ideas but not so much that a younger reader won’t understand them. While I was a little worried about how this society viewed women, it worked well within the context of the story and presented an interesting contrast between Todd, automatically considered more worthy than a woman in this society, and Viola, the more worldly and educated of the two. It also presents an interesting and subtle debate on science versus religion. Although the religious element is also what stops me from giving the book 5 stars. The main villain of the piece, the wild minded possibly psychopathic preacher Aaron, is far too one dimensional for this story. He was suitably scary, don’t get me wrong, but it felt like taking the easy way out. The ending, a massive cliff hanger, sort of makes up for him but it still disappointed me enough to stop this getting the full 5 stars.

But believe me, I whole heartedly recommend this book. I am dying to get my hands on the other two books and I hope you all go out and do the same. “The Knife of Never Letting Go” is why I read YA. It’s bold, unflinching, gripping, tense, original, intriguing and a whole other bunch of buzz words that don’t do it justice. I read this book in two sittings and still begged for more.


Coming next: The YA Mafia Ninjas and my thoughts on the clique.

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Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I actually google'd the first line (well. you made me curious) and I agree, it's awesome. I might give this one a try.

Ariana said...

Hahaha, I also googled the first line. Fantastic. I'm definitely going to check this out!

Leeness said...


Love, love, love these books.

I hope you really enjoy the second and third, and I think you'll find the villain of those ones are MUCH more three dimensional than Aaron. Aaron was kind of a...warm up? I suppose?

But yeah, really great gems of the YA genre. I just saw them recommended as "if you liked His Dark Materials" and checked them out. So happy I decided to follow that one sentence recommendation. :)

Eafiu said...

It reminded me Peggy Sue because of the "hearing your dog's thoughts" thing. Just for that I'd like to read it! :D

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

woohoo, i LOVED this series, it gets so much worse (or better, depending on how you look at it) :) nice review

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