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Book Cover Image: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick NessTitle: The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking Trilogy #01

Author: Patrick Ness

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):

“Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World?

Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.”

Thoughts: In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness explores the consequences of being bombarded by constant information. This incessant information comes in the form of thoughts, streamed instantaneously and nonstop by all men and animals on New World. Strangely, women are exempt from this phenomenon. How does someone adjust to being inundated by every thought and image of every man and animal in the vicinity? How does a society build up its existence among such chaos? Answers exist, but Todd’s discovery of the answers drives the action behind this first novel in the Chaos Walking series.

The power behind The Knife of Never Letting Go is the familiarity of New World. The differences between New World and Earth are subtle; Ness never overtly points them out to the reader. Similarly, Ness never mentions where exactly New World is located. A reader could safely assume that New World is Earth in the future just as easily as one could assume Old World is Earth. The reader simply does not know and cannot assume one way or another and this lack of knowledge adds to the level of intrigue and mystery already surrounding New World and the various settlements.

As the narrator, Todd proves to be as innocent as he is observant. He provides enough description of his locations to be able to follow where he is and the conditions in which he is traveling. His innocence creates the drama and tension. His shock is the reader’s shock, and his disbelief is the reader’s unease. Often, Ness chooses to share his words spelled phonetically. While the reader understands how uneducated Todd is and gets a feel for his accent, one is left perplexed what this truly adds to the overall novel. This is especially true when Ness fails to do the same for other characters, like Viola. Todd makes a big deal about Viola’s accent, but the reader does not get a good understanding of that accent because her dialogue is not written phonetically. It is not a huge problem but could be a distraction for some readers.

The Noise, also known as the constantly streaming thoughts and images, are effectively portrayed through dense text and different fonts. Often looking like graffiti on a page, Ness clearly emphasizes how distracting it can be, as well as how difficult it is to have a private thought. However, an interesting counterpoint Todd makes is the idea that one can lie with one’s thoughts. It is easy to lose one’s individuality and humanity when confronted with such noise. As the Noise so clearly symbolizes society’s obsession with social media and constant access to the Internet, The Knife of Never Letting Go becomes more than just a thriller read but rather a cautionary tale about too much exposure to information.

With its almost non-stop action, fascinating cultures, and a strong sympathy for Todd and Viola, The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of those books that one cannot stop reading. Due to one amazing cliffhanger, a reader will be hard-pressed not to go out and immediately devour the next book in the series. Ness has managed to create a world that is eerily similar to our own, while allowing the differences to engage the reader on a more intimate level.

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