- Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
- Author: Patrick Ness
- Genre: YA/Science Fiction
- Series: Book One of the Chaos Walking trilogy
- Would recommend to: fans of The Hunger Games and other YA science fiction.
- Available in library?: Yes.
Review by Joel Duggan
The Knife of Never Letting Go is a Young Adult Science Fiction book published in 2008. It is the debut novel of author Patrick Ness and the first instalment in his Chaos Walking trilogy. It has won numerous awards and has garnered much critical acclaim.
It follows Todd Hewitt, a boy of twelve who lives in Prentisstown. In Prentisstown, everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an endless stream referred to as Noise. There is no women and Todd is the only boy in the town that has not yet come of age (in Prentisstown this is thirteen). Just a month from his birthday, Todd stumbles upon a spot of complete silence, free of Noise. Todd soon finds out that everything he knows is a lie and that if he wants to live, he has to flee Prentisstown.
In fiction – especially YA – I’ve always found it important that an author not attempt to tone down or compromise his work for the sake of his audience. Indeed, this is something that Patrick Ness succeeds at, as the only thing “young adult” about this book is the protagonist. The world Ness has created is brutal, graphic and violent. Yet even with all of this, the book is still thought-provoking and has its share of human moments. There’s themes of family and friendship, of morality and conscience.
It’s inventive and bizarre, being written as a first-person stream-of-consciousness. There’s run-on sentences, misspellings and grammar mistakes (all intentional). These help to build Todd’s character and show the reader the type of person he is from the get-go. It’s also one of the most unique ways of telling a story that I’ve ever seen. There’s some solid characterisation going on, though the antagonists seem to not have a motive beyond a desire for power. Even with that flaw, Aaron and Mayor Prentiss were still well-written villains, with the latter not even being seen for most of the book. Todd also developed throughout the book (as you would expect), and his character arc culminates in epic fashion during the novel’s climax. The story gradually built up tension for its climax and it delivered. The scene was intense, symbolic, action-packed and essentially everything you would want it to be. The book was a wild ride from the beginning all the way to the end.
Overall, The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read. It’s original, expertly-written and takes its audience seriously. It does share some similarities with The Hunger Games due to both being YA science-fiction with themes of survival, but Knife has a greater focus on characters and storytelling. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone, but particularly those who enjoy YA, science fiction or both.
Patrick Ness website