Title: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’
Author: Patrick Ness (ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVOURITES HERE)
Genre: YA fiction/ sci-fi/ dystopian/ absolute brilliance
Rating: Tender, juicy, punchy, addictive and medium rare, just how I like it 🙂
Several spoilers below. Scroll slowly.
+ half a fork
“Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
I think I ripped out my heart in the process of reading this book. It was cracking brilliant. Every misspelt word was perfection. Stupid, haunting perfection. This book wasn’t a book. It was real, heart crushingly, real story. Every word was alive and breathing on the page and every character (OH, THE CHARACTERS) were messes of hope, humanity and beautiful imperfection.
Fangirling is over, commence review:
Todd Hewitt lives in world where all men can hear- yes, hear as real, physical sound– each other’s thoughts. They call it the Noise. So when you’re in a crowded place, what you hear would pretty much sound like this-
Yes, that’s actually how it appears in the book. Chaotic, right?
Anyway, our beautifully imperfect main character, Todd Hewitt, lives in this dark world full of unveiled thoughts of men. That’s the other thing: there are no women in Prentisstown for some tragic reason which you will find out about if you read the book. So in a world full of men, the emphasis on ‘becoming a man‘ is overpowering. And Todd is the youngest male in the town- the only ‘boy’ left. To officially become a ‘man’ in Prentisstown, each boy has to do something. A deed. Which I shall proceed to spoil, so SPOILER ALERT BELOW:
You have to kill somebody.
Anyway, because our brilliant main character physically cannot commit this deed, he runs away with his brilliant dog, Manchee. Along the way, they meet a mysterious gal named Viola who you will proceed to love because she isn’t pathetic like some of our dismal dystopian heroines today. Viola, Todd and Manchee are running away from Prentisstown on their way to a place called ‘Haven.’ (Sounds deceptively safe, huh?) Oh, and along the way there’s a psychotic preacher, always a nice thing to have in a story.
Ok, apologies for my hideous plot summary- it’s the characters I want to talk about here.
Wow. Todd Hewitt is a brilliant character. Todd feels– and when I say feels, I mean that every emotion in his chest leaps off the pages and grips your heart. You feel the pain and fear of every decision he has to make, the sorrow and regret which follows… the need to ‘become a man’ but still cling to his humanity. Todd isn’t a wholly ‘good’ person and sometimes he finds it hard to make the ‘right’ choice… but that’s the thing that makes him human.
These days, we get so many 2-dimensional characters who already know what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and retain their innocence. But that’s not human and Todd is human. He’s a living, breathing, 16-dimensional character with complexity beyond his years. He makes stupid choices, he falls, but he gets back up.
Another thing: Todd’s Noise is intense. Really intense. That boy thinks like a hornet. But his Noise is kind of different- it’s open and honest and real. He’s a powerful thinker.
I think the Knife in the story is definitely worth mentioning. The Knife represents the push and pull of that ever-fragile string connecting to your humanity, your identity. To hold, to let go. To kill, to spare. Todd is haunted by the presence of the Knife because it confronts him with choices he doesn’t want to make. Choices which will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Now for the mysterious, Noise-less (that doesn’t count as a spoiler) Viola Eade.
“She’s her own girl,” I say. “She don’t belong to me.”
And that’s Viola in a nutshell; her own girl. She’s loyal, she’s smart and she’s full of steadfast hope. She’s Todd’s string, what keeps him holding onto his identity- what keeps him grounded. She reminds him that he doesn’t have to conform to the cold, callous world around him in order to ‘become’ a man.
And what she does at the end…
… no words for it.
No spoilers here because that would be a crime- in case any of you ‘accidentally’ peeked.
What she did was selfless, beautiful and courageous. She did it for Todd; she did it so that they wouldn’t win… and they didn’t. They didn’t win Todd.
To find out what I’m talking about, go to the nearest library/bookstore and eat the book.
Now, best for last:
This character is the best- no exaggeration here- the BEST, the most complex character ever created. Who is this masterpiece?
Where does one begin with such a character?
Simple. One does not. So one rambles and hopes something intelligible comes out.
What. A. Brilliant. Character.
Now you will only agree with me if you have read the entire series. Mayor Prentiss is a work of art- he is THE most complex character you will ever read of, a labyrinth of depth and dark corners. He will mess up your mind like a dog’s breakfast. He will make you wonder whether right really is right and whether wrong might just be right after all. Absolutely NO spoilers here- that’s one part of the series which you’ll have to unearth yourself 🙂 Is he a villain or is he deeper than that? I’d love to see what ya’ll think 🙂 One thing’s for sure- the Mayor isn’t your faraway, stereotypical ‘bad guy.’ He goes way deeper than that- layers deeper. The guy’s an onion.
Oh, and another character worth mentioning is Aaron. Mmm.
One thing’s for sure, you can’t fault the guy for persistence. Brilliantly brutal, wild-eyed, psychotic Aaron.
Ok, mild spoiler here:
The stupid man never dies. Gets mauled by a crocodile, you think “thank goodness he’s dead.” Nope. Turns up a few days later, flesh dripping down his face and still brimming with motivation to finish the task he’s set out to do: corrupt Todd. Waterfalls, crocodiles- you name it. The guy is invincible.
So Aaron’s a character worth reading about. He will make you want to rip out your heart. The whole BOOK makes you want to rip out your chest. The emotions, the themes… you will be haunted for days after you read it, guaranteed.
And can I just say, this book is absolutely BRIMMING with quotable quotes, so if you’re one of those people (like myself) who adore poetic sounding stuff, this is for you. Even if you’re not so into that, rest assured- it’s packed twisty, juicy, fleshy action.
So, overall, Patrick Ness is a cracking genius and ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ series is truly, truly magnificent. If I could recommend this a thousand times over, I would. I’d blog a million blogs about this series. This book (which is the first in the series) was a brilliant start to an exploding trilogy, save for a mildly slow start (persist through the first 15 pages, it’s worth it).
Each word leaps of the page in its profound simplicity, the themes embedded in the magnificent plot will worm its way into your mind and the characters… oh, the characters. You will feel their emotions stronger than you do your own.
One thing I wish I explored a little deeper were the symbolism the Noise and the Knife held… so pay special attention to those whilst reading 🙂
Oh, and remember…
Wanna know what that means?
Find the book now. Prepared to be amazed.
Patrick Ness, I take my hat off to you.
Warning: After I read this series, I spent 3 hours lying on the floor in a daze. Prepare to be haunted- in a good way 🙂
Anybody else adore this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂
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