Monday, July 7, 2014

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
1. Ness, Patrick. (2010). The knife of never letting go. Read by Nick Podehl.  Somerville, MA: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio.
2. Summary: Todd Hewitt is the youngest boy in a town of men.  The thoughts of each man and animal are audible to everyone in the form of Noise.  Todd is a month away from being a man when everything changes. Todd and his dog, Manchee,  discover a silence in the Noise. Todd realizes that this silence is something he must keep secret from the rest of the men in the town. However, a secret like that is impossible to keep when your Noise is broadcasted for the townsfolk to hear. Todd and Manchee are forced  to run  away from the only life they have ever known. Along their way, they discover the same eerily quiet hole in the Noise: a girl. Todd, Manchee, and the girl set off  on a journey to learn the truth in their existence.
3. Critical Analysis: The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. Ness’s novel was the recipient of The Guardian children's fiction prize and was a starred review from Booklist and School Library Journal.  This highly acclaimed novel follows Todd Hewitt on a coming-of-age quest against the evil Mayor Prentiss.
The novel is told by Todd and unfolds very slowly. This was frustrating for me at first because I wanted to know the details to this New World. However,  the slow unfolding was very effective in the world-building that took place. Ness has created an entire world and civilization that the reader needed to discover. With the slow-pacing, the reader could build the bits and pieces into the plot.  And, even more, the slow pace allows readers to get to know the other main character, Viola. Viola was a part of a scout ship from another group of settlers headed to New World. While scouting with her parents, the ship crashed killing all but herself. Todd is very unsure of Viola at first.Their relationship truly blooms and grows as they battle for their lives.
Patrick Ness does not skirt around difficult issues- he has Todd tackle them head on. For example, when Todd flees for his life, he is given a knife , a "big ratchety one with the bone handle and the serrated edge that cuts practically everything in the world", to protect himself. Yet, Todd isn’t sure if he can use it or not.  The idea of killing to protect oneself is something that most people have thought about. Todd is unable to kill, it is what sets him apart from the others in the book. Another difficult issue that Ness beautifully addresses is the idea of loss. Todd lost his parents when he was an infant and was being raised by neighbors. After fleeing the town, all Todd has is  his mother’s journal (which he can’t read because he is illiterate) , the knife, and Manchee. Manchee is the most loyal of dogs. He sticks by Todd and protects him as much as he can. Todd suffers the greatest loss when he must sacrifice Manchee to save Viola. This is such a powerful part of the book because it signifies that Todd is no longer a child, but turning into a man.
Partick Ness’ writing is very clear. The diction reflects the way Todd, an illiterate teenager, thinks and talks. “I never ended up reading too good. Don’t matter. Ain’t nobody in Prentisstown ever gonna write a book” (19).  Todd is such a believable teenager. Although the plot can be somewhat deep, Ness adds in enough humor  (especially from Manchee) to take the edge off some of those more intense moments.

After the reader gets a handle on the characters and setting, the story takes off. Fans of dystopian fantasy will be enthralled by the New World and breathtakingly unique storyline.

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