Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go. Candlewick Press, 2008. 479p. $21.00. 978-0-7636-3931-0
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, eagerly awaiting his thirteenth birthday and his entrance into manhood. Set on a planet known only as the New World, Todd is the child of settlers from a decaying Earth. Todd was orphaned as a baby when the native species called Spackles waged war on the settlers, releasing a germ that killed every female human, and left the men able to hear each and see other’s thoughts. The never-ending cacophony of the survivors’ thoughts is known as Noise. With every man privy to each other’s feelings, ideas, dreams, hopes, fear, and lies, there are no secrets and no lies. At least, that’s what Todd thinks, until he comes across something in the swamp outside of Prentisstown that he has never heard before…a patch of silence. This discovery endangers Todd’s life and sets him on a course that he could never have imagined.
From the first droll line to the cliff-hanger ending, this first book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy is utterly engrossing, thanks to a likeable protagonist and a fast-paced, suspenseful, and constantly surprising plot. Todd’s first-person narration draws the reader into the story with teasing glimpses into a cleverly crafted world that both is both familiar in dystopian science fiction—an alien planet settled by humans hoping to ‘start over’—and also refreshing as an recognizable rural landscape. Todd’s idiosyncratic speech and spelling errors take some getting used to, but even readers who shy away from science fiction will be charmed and mesmerized. The story is as well-written as it is finely crafted, and inspires thoughts on privacy, truth, maturing, and courage. The importance of reading, both of texts and of people, is also prominent. This book is suitable for young adult readers, but will also appeal to adults.
Highly recommended. 4Q, 4P