Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I was so excited the morning I woke up and found that Patrick Ness had won the Carnegie for his young adult book Monsters of Men.  It was the final book in his Chaos Walking series.  The coolest thing (at least to me) is that all three of the books, including the middle book The Ask and the Answer, in this series has been nominated and made the short list for the Carnegie.  It was almost like a Peter-Jackson-Lord-of-the-Rings-at-the-Oscars kind of moment.  Because of his win, I felt it necessary to read the trilogy again and so started with the first book Knife of Never Letter Go

In this first book, Ness introduces us to a new world along with his two main characters, although the book is told in first person by Todd Hewitt.  Todd and his dog, Manchee, are out for a stroll in the swamps to collect apples when they come across a void in the Noise.  Noise is the thoughts of all living creatures, except for female humans.  Every animal and male human can hear the thoughts of every other animal and male human.  It is a huge cacophony that is surely maddening. 

Todd is the last boy of his town.  His town has no women, no girls and now no other children.  He is just a few weeks shy of becoming a man and he is counting the days down when he will be Mr. Hewitt and not just Todd.  He's excited, but finding this silence has caused Todd a problem.  There shouldn't be a silence in the swamp or anywhere.  Suddenly Todd is having his bags packed by his surrogate parents and thrust out the door with the instructions to read his mother's diary and get to the next settlement.  Armed with just a hunting knife, Todd sets out to find something he didn't even know existed.  As he travels he realizes that so many things he had been told are lies and that becoming a man means joining in on those lies. 

And then he meets Viola, who can't possibly exist and the lies start unravelling to expose the truths behind them.  And now Todd and Manchee have Viola join their escape. Together the three face horrors that neither could imagine existed.  Todd learns what it means to love someone and at the same time becomes a man in his own fashion, facing the realities that have plagued his childhood village and understand the corruption that can come when selfishness and greed are the building blocks of your society.

The only thing that bothered me in this book was the spelling and grammar.  Because this books is narrated by Todd and he has been given limited education, his grammar and spelling reflect that.  Words are spelled phonetically and in dialect.  This normally drives me up the wall and makes me want to scream, "What happens to grammar and spelling in post-apocalyptic societies?" For some reason this book didn't cause this immediate knee-jerk reaction.  (I had to quit reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy due to lack of sentence structure.)  I actually found the grammar more endearing than annoying.  It is well worth the read and I encourage everyone to read this fabulous young adult book written from a young man's perspective in a language that both male and female readers can comprehend.

Currently Reading:  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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