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Patrick Ness – The Knife of Never Letting Go

February 28, 2011

26. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008)
Chaos Walking, Book 1

Length: 480 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian sci-fi

Started: 13 February 2011
Finished: 16 February 2011

Where did it come from? Purchased from Bookcloseouts.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 November 2009. (Y’all! Why did you let me sit on this book for fifteen months?) (Actually, I know why: I was stalling because I didn’t want to get started on the series before they were all published. But still!)

Why do I have it? Oh, gosh, this is old enough that I don’t remember where I first heard of it (probably from tons of people), but I feel like blame most likely goes to Nymeth or Darren. Shall we say half a point each? Also a hat tip to Jenny for providing the kick in the ass I needed to finally pull it off the TBR shelf.

My head is noisy
enough without having my
whole town in there too.

Summary: For Todd Hewitt, and every other man in Prentisstown, there’s no such thing as being alone. One of the last strikes of the alien Spackle against the human settlers was a germ that killed all of the women, and made the men – and their animals – capable of broadcasting their thoughts, and incapable of shutting themselves off from the Noise of others. Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, only one month from his thirteenth birthday and the ceremony that will turn him into a man. In the meantime, though, he’s been spending a lot of time in the swamp that borders Prentisstown, alone but for his talking dog Manchee. Then, one day, he comes across something he’d always thought was impossible, and that discovery sets off a chain of events that will cause Todd to have to flee for his life. But where else can he possibly go, and how can he get away when his pursuers can hear his every thought?

Review: I’m hardly the first person to say so, but: holy crap, this book was good. Really, shockingly, nail-bitingly, bedtime-ignoring-ly good. I was coming off a book that was the polar opposite of plot-driven, and I was looking for a read with a focus on telling a good story, something that would suck me in and keep me reading. And man alive, did The Knife of Never Letting Go deliver. It’s got twists and turns like nobody’s business, most of which caught me totally by surprise, and Ness does a good job of delivering action and suspense and mystery and excitement and emotion in equal measure. He even employs one of my usual literary pet peeves – where the narrator knows something (in this case by reading it in someone else’s Noise) that the reader doesn’t, and the author is deliberately coy about not providing the reader with crucial information in the name of building up suspense – and somehow manages to do it in a way that didn’t leave me totally frustrated and annoyed. Don’t ask me how; authorial magic and possibly voodoo, I suspect.

The excellent plot doesn’t mean that Ness skimps on his characters, however. Todd’s a sympathetic narrator, and watching him deal with the systematic stripping away of everything he had and everything thought he knew is quite fascinating. A lot of the coming-of-age elements of the story are admittedly kind of predictable, but Ness manages to frame them in such a way that they feel like something new. Yet again, Ness gets away with another of my literary pet peeves when it comes to his characters: heavily transcribing dialects and deliberately misspelling words to indicate the uneducated. That sort of thing has vast potential to be annoying, but Ness makes it work, and in Todd’s voice it just sounds authentic.

Also, while we’re on the subject of characters: Manchee is now an inductee into my Literary Canine Hall of Fame. He’s an awesome character, while still being completely believable as a normal dog, and he made me miss having a puppy of my own something fierce.

Really, the only issues I had with this book were 1) there was an awful lot of running, so it felt at times like a book-length non-stop chase scene; some of that could have been pared down, and 2) the one bad guy that just would not die, well beyond the bounds of what is medically believable or even physically possible. Other than that, however, this book was just all-around fan-fricking-tastic, and I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If by some chance I am not the last fan of YA dystopian fiction that hadn’t read this book, then I strongly encourage whoever’s left to stop delaying and pick this book up posthaste. You won’t regret it.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: I normally don’t do this, but seriously, everybody and their (presumably non-talking) dog has reviewed this book. If you want to see how many, check the Book Blog Search Engine results.

First Line: The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2011 7:48 am

    The constant running made me breathless and left me reaching for my asthma spray! Glad to hear you loved it too. Envious that you are reading the series for the first time. I can’t go back!

    • March 9, 2011 12:46 pm

      vivienne – It’s that way for so many good books… I’d love to be able to go back and read them for the first time, but with my appreciation intact!

  2. February 28, 2011 11:06 am

    Oh man, I need to get around to this!

    • March 9, 2011 12:46 pm

      Omni – Yes you do! (Although it’s comforting to know I’m not the *absolute* last person on the planet to read it. :)

  3. February 28, 2011 11:14 am

    MANCHEE <3

    I loved The Knife of Never Letting Go with the fire of a thousand suns. I am glad you loved Manchee too.

    AND OMG yes on that one character never dying. Actually, lol I think one of my goodreads status updates about KoNLG was 'JUST DIE ALREADY!!' Sigh. What a fabulous read.

    • March 9, 2011 12:47 pm

      April – I wonder how many puppies out there are currently named Manchee entirely on the strength of TKoNLG?

  4. February 28, 2011 12:12 pm

    Loved this book. In a way that I love things that are one hundred percent amazing, but hard to live with. Glad you’ve joined the fan club. *grin*

    • March 9, 2011 12:48 pm

      Celi.a – “one hundred percent amazing but hard to live with” is an excellent description, both for this and for several other books I can think of.

  5. February 28, 2011 2:58 pm

    Apparently I need to read this :) … I like the idea of a talking dog.

    • March 9, 2011 12:49 pm

      dragonflyy – And he’s a supremely awesomely doggish talking dog, too!

  6. February 28, 2011 3:32 pm

    You highlighted my main problem with it – it just doesn’t stop! It kept going and going, so I truly felt like I was racing. Oddly enough I also loved Todd’s voice, even though I don’t normally like dialects or deliberately dumbing down text. Ness just did it really well.

    Then I read the second one and fell in love, so it’s all good. I can’t wait until you get to the next two!

    • March 9, 2011 12:51 pm

      Meghan – By the time this post actually published, I’d already read TAatA, and by the time I’m getting around to replying to comments, I’ve finished the whole series! (Still need to get to the freebie Kindle short story, though!)

  7. February 28, 2011 3:46 pm

    Sooooooo pleased you loved this one. :D

    • March 9, 2011 12:51 pm

      Darren – Me too! And a belated thanks for (probably) convincing me that it was something I should look into in the first place… Enjoy your half a point!

  8. February 28, 2011 3:49 pm

    I really liked this book, but then I wasn’t crazy about book 2. I haven’t read book 3 yet…

    • March 9, 2011 12:52 pm

      Kailana – What was it about book 2 that slowed you down?

  9. February 28, 2011 4:51 pm

    I keep thinking this book isn’t for me, but so many people whose opinions I respect (like you) have loved it, so I think I need to give it a try.

    • March 9, 2011 12:53 pm

      bermudaonion – It’s off your beaten path, for sure, but it’s really good, so if you’re interested in branching out a little, I’d highly recommend it.

  10. February 28, 2011 6:30 pm

    LOVED this series. Seriously, one of my favorites. I’m glad you enjoyed it, too!

    • March 9, 2011 1:10 pm

      Susan – That seems to be the general consensus! It really was a great read!

  11. February 28, 2011 7:13 pm

    Felt very much the same about that one bad guy, but then I reflected that Rasputin survived all kinds of stuff. Perhaps being crazy helps?

    I’m thrilled you liked this! Are you off and running with The Ask and the Answer, or are you giving yourself a little breather in between?

    • March 9, 2011 1:12 pm

      Jenny – I’m sure being crazy helps to a degree, but there’s running off the craziness adrenaline pain dampening effects, and then there’s soldiering on for DAYS with HALF OF ONE’S FACE MISSING.

  12. February 28, 2011 8:08 pm

    I’m glad you finally got to read this one! The series has become a favorite of mine and I recommend it to our middle schooler students. My thoughts about about Ness writing the “non-stop chase scene” and the all-around chaos is that that is what it is like in war, the stress, the constant tension and adrenaline rush.

    • March 9, 2011 1:13 pm

      Gavin – That’s a very good point that the non-stop tension, while hard to read, does really help set the tone of the book.

  13. February 28, 2011 8:45 pm

    I loved this series (well, the first two books; I still haven’t gotten my hands on the third) so very very very much.

    • March 9, 2011 1:20 pm

      Trisha – Oh, I’m surprised you’ve been able to wait for the third book, I think I might have been standing reading it in the bookstore if my library hadn’t had a copy.

  14. March 5, 2011 8:56 am

    Well, if I hadn’t read the book you’d definitely be having me want to!! I think I’ll just chalk my experience up to bad timing and be happy that so many do really love this book! But I’m with you on the bothersome bits–every time Aaron popped into the scene I had to roll my eyes just a bit. ;)

    • March 9, 2011 1:21 pm

      Trish – Bad timing’s such a bummer, eh? I’ve definitely read some books where I was able to think “Man, if I were in a different mood, I’d be loving this, but as is? Meh.”

  15. March 6, 2011 1:35 am

    This is the second review I’ve read this week of this book that said something along the lines of “I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to read this book”. I really need to kick myself and read it too! I have it on my shelves, I’ll probably give it a try once the semester is over!

    • March 9, 2011 1:21 pm

      Kay – If you need a good kicking, just ask! I’m happy to pass along the favor. :)

  16. March 25, 2011 2:43 am

    I read the first line of your review and I thought, “Okay, stop right now and get to reading it”… I’ve had this book on my shelf for a week and I still haven’t been able to crack it open.


  1. The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness | Iris on Books
  2. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness | Iris on Books

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