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Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt is nearly thirteen years old and has never seen a woman.  He knows what women look like, though, because he can see them in other men’s thoughts.  The ability to see thoughts – words and images – is called Noise, and all the men in his town have the same ability.  The Noise, a disease passed on by the Spackle, aliens who previously inhabited Todd’s world, isn’t just limited to men, as all animals can talk, including Todd’s slightly stupid dog, Manchee.  On Todd’s thirteenth birthday, he will become a man, the last boy in his town to do so, but before that can happen, Todd encounters a pocket of silence that leads to his expulsion from Prentisstown and causes him to question everything he’s ever known.

This is a book that has been hyped throughout the blogosphere endlessly.  I know I bought it because so many book bloggers I trust had read and loved it.  I think my expectations made the book less of an experience for me.  I simply knew it was meant to be amazing, so perhaps it’s not a surprise that it wasn’t. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, but it hasn’t immediately catapulted itself onto my list of all-time favorite books.  The rest of this review might contain slight spoilers, so I wouldn’t suggest reading it unless you’ve completed the book.

The best and the worst thing about this book is the pace.  It’s Todd’s frantic flight from his entire life, a girl and a dog in tow, with terrifyingly bad men behind them. The sense of urgency is overwhelming and is constantly pushing the reader to read on, to read faster, to find out what happens next.  While this ability to absorb me is a great thing in a new era of books that only half-heartedly interest me, it also harmed the book’s impact, perhaps because I did read it so quickly.  I did get attached to Todd and Viola and Manchee, but all of the tragedy within the book simply did not have the time to emotionally hit me.  Something else happened so quickly that the characters couldn’t dwell on their losses or problems, so I didn’t really feel them the way I was supposed to.  In addition, the many tragedies made the book feel somewhat emotionally manipulative.  There is no respite from it at all.

There is still a lot to love here, though.  The concept of the Noise is just fascinating and while the men of Prentisstown can’t be excused for what they did, it’s so easy to see how this could drive someone mad.  Todd is an incredibly loveable character despite what he’s driven to do over the course of the novel.  I even enjoyed the deliberate misspellings because I felt they revealed a lot of his childishness and innocence; they gave him part of his voice and I honestly don’t think the book would be the same without it.  Best of all, I think, was his relationship with Viola, even though he’s obstinate as only a boy could be at the beginning.  At first he sees Viola as a foreign object, then as a woman, and finally as a person, just like him, and I think the transformation of his thinking and their interactions was my favorite part of the entire book.  If you read this blog you know I’m all about the relationships between characters and this is a great one.

So, in short, The Knife of Never Letting Go* didn’t totally blow me away and it’s not my favorite book of the year, but I seriously enjoyed it and I’m anxiously awaiting the return of The Ask and the Answer* to the library so I can continue the story.

*I am an Amazon Associate and earn a small referral fee if you purchase through these links. I purchased this book.

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