by Patrick Ness Book : Fiction : Secondary (senior high) school  |  1st U.S. ed
Slow but interesting!   (2009-11-04)
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown and, in one month, he will be a man. But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. First, there are no women in Prentisstown - they all died years ago, when the aliens called Spackle released a germ that created Noise. And that's the second thing... the Noise. Every one can hear everyone else's thoughts, from the tiniest squirrel to the loudest man. It's an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise that cannot be ignored. There is no quiet, no privacy, and no room for secrets.
Or is there? When Todd and his dog, Manchee, are exploring the swamp one day, they discover a pocket of silence, where there is no Noise. And the source of the quiet is a girl, something that Todd never expected to see. Todd does his best to keep the girl a secret from the rest of Prentisstown. But Todd isn't the only one keeping secrets - the men of the town have been hiding something from him, something about their past and the legacy that belongs to each boy that becomes a man there. Soon Todd finds himself running for his life, trying to escape a past he didn't know existed. But how can you run when those chasing you can hear your every thought?
<i>The Knife of Never Letting Go</i> is the first in the Chaos Walking series. I thought it was a little slow to start with - this is a world that feels recognizable when you see the settler life that Prentisstown is leading, and you think you know where things are going when the rug gets pulled out from under you. Todd knows almost nothing about his town's dark history or the surrounding world, so you are constantly having to revise the way you understand Todd's world. This got to be a little bit overwhelming, which is how it should be for Todd, but wore on me as I was reading.
The concept of Noise, of trying to keep your thoughts private or calm or layering them so that you can keep something to yourself, as really intriguing, and I liked the connection the author made between the way we're bombarded with all kinds of information today. The way Noise is expressed in the book is very powerful, and I would've liked to have seen that appear a bit more throughout. You also got a strong sense of the desperation that Todd and Viola must feel and the hopelessness of their journey, which can be a bit crushing to the reader... particularly when it comes to Chapter 31. I had a good cry at the end of <i>that</i> chapter.
This book does have one of my all-time favorite openings: "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything." With such a great opening, it can feel like a bit of a slog to continue those first few chapters. However, this book is worth it!
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