The Knife of Never Letting Go

Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Publication: 2008, Candlewick

Pages: 496

Overall Rating: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Twelve year old Todd Hewitt is one month away from becoming a man.  And that means a lot in Prentisstown, where Todd is the last boy.  There are no women in Prentisstown, and it’s a loud and angry place to grow up.  Because on New World, men can hear each other’s every thought and even read the thoughts of animals.  And since all the women died, the thoughts of the Prentisstown men have grown pretty ugly.

But all that changes when Todd stumbles across the impossible – a girl hidden in the swamps.  All too soon he and the girl (named Viola) are on the run, with the men of Prentisstown on their trail.  And the farther the go, the more Todd begins to realize that everything he’s ever been told about New World is a lie.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: I loved the premise behind this book – a far off planet, sparsely inhabited by colonists who came looking for a simpler life, where through a twist of biology the men and animals broadcast all their thoughts to the world – but the women are silent.  Add in a war with the native inhabitants, a healthy dose of religious zealotry, a lot of angry and very lonely men, and one girl who recently crash landed on the planet, and you’ve got all the makings for an explosive story.

Ness builds on this potential through a masterful ability to generate raw emotional tension.   Whether it’s Todd’s internal conflicts, arguments with Viola, or the heated atmosphere of violence, The Knife of Never Letting Go rushes forward like an emotional steamroller.  It’s powerful and impossible to put down.

What I Liked the Least: Todd can’t read very well, but he’s been given a map, and on the back of it is a lot of writing.  He can’t make out most of it, but does manage to decipher one underlined sentence – “You must warn them.”  Unfortunately, Todd’s pride prevents him from admitting that he can’t read.  He doesn’t accept Viola’s offer of help, pushing her away every time she brings it up.  I found this a little hard to believe, given that he came from a village where reading and books had been banned.  Why would he feel embarrassed about not knowing how to do something that had little value in his own society?  And yet, Todd holds on to this refusal until it’s all but too late.  That did not work for me.

The other issue with this book is the level of violence.  Now, I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but it was extreme enough that I need to emphasize it.  The Knife of Never Letting Go is the most violent Young Adult book I have ever read.  The violence is very well done, but there’s nothing swashbuckling or cartoonish about it.  The violence in this book will drive an emotional knife between your ribs, and it’s never far away.  So be warned.

How Good was the Action? Ness has a style that emphasizes short, choppy sentences when the action starts steaming along, and every scene packs an emotional punch.  They’re full of great blow-by-blow detail, bursting with emotional power, and read like a jackhammer on steroids.  But good as the action is, it’s also crazy violent.  So don’t pick this up if you aren’t ready for some heart-rending blood and guts.

How Engaging was the Story?   I don’t think there’s much more that needs to be said here.  Ness has an affinity for powerful emotions and great dialogue.  He’s created an engaging story of two youths on the run in a frontier world where Todd’s “noise” makes it almost impossible to hide.  Check it out.

Profanity: Yes and No.  Todd says F’ing a lot, and at the beginning is quick to emphasize that “I didn’t really say F’ing, if you know what I mean.”  But the actual word is never used.

Sex: None, though they are a few references to sexual fantasies.

Violence: Yes.  In fact, I think it would be fair to say that The Knife of Never Letting Go is the most violent YA book I’ve ever read.  The action here is both bloody and extremely intimate.  When someone dies, you feel their death in all its gruesome, emotional detail.

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