Anyone who read my reviews regularly last year will be aware that I have developed something of a book crush on Patrick Ness. He’s a brilliant author and, as some have said of Rainbow Rowell, an author I wish had been around when I actually was a Young Adult, as it would have made my teenage years that much more bearable. He is also bloody good value for money on Twitter, so if you don’t already, you should totally follow him. His live tweeting of reading the first Twilight book was comedy gold.
But I digress.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in his Chaos Walking trilogy, which is what really put him on the map 6 years ago. Between this trilogy and A Monster Calls, he has won pretty much every YA literary award there is. Having now read the first third of said trilogy, I can totally see why. This book grips like a vice from the first page and, well like the title says, it never lets go. Welcome to Prentisstown, a place like no other. Everyone can hear each other’s thoughts (the Noise) and you become a man at age 13, though a year does last 13 months. One day, Todd and his dog Manchee (whose thoughts Todd can also hear) stumble across an area of total silence. The lack of Noise should not be possible and Todd soon finds out that Prentisstown is nothing like he thought it was and is fleeing for his life with Manchee in tow. But being on the run is a little difficult when your pursuers can hear your every thought.
I’m fairly sure I’m one of the last people on the planet to read the trilogy but in the event that I am not, why are you still here? You should be heading to the bookshop/library/Kindle store to be getting stuck in. You won’t regret it. It is a relentlessly paced read, one I struggled to put down as I just couldn’t wait to find out more about Todd’s epic journey of discovery. Some people may struggle with the misspelled words and poor grammar Ness uses for the Prentisstown dialect (I did, briefly), but just go with it. Trust me. Todd and Manchee are great company, poor spelling or no. What is really going on in Prentisstown isn’t fully revealed here, but *spoiler alert*, the reason for the silence is a girl. See, while women can hear the men’s Noise, men can’t hear theirs. Todd has been told that the virus which caused the Noise was fatal to women, as the entire female population in his town is dead. But if that didn’t kill them, what did?
A grim and unique premise, a bleak and unforgiving setting, by rights Knife should be a punishing read. But Todd’s naiveté and his friendship with Manchee, his slow burgeoning friendship with Violet (the girl with the Silence) make this as charming as it is exciting (and yes, bleak). However, I need to warn readers of a sensitive disposition. Ness pulls the rug towards the end of this book and you won’t want to believe he has been so cruel. But he has been. I knew what was coming (Twitter caught me unawares one day) and even that didn’t really help matters. Patrick Ness is a cold hearted bastard. You have been warned.
He’s also an out and proud homosexual who is all about promoting equality and acceptance. He put a gay teen front and centre of More Than This but didn’t make the book all about his being gay. At the start of this trilogy, he quietly shows us that Todd has been happily raised by a gay couple who love him as much as they do each other. And for that, he really can’t be praised enough. Basically, read this book. And then read the next two. I plan to read them before the year is out, so reviews of them will be here soon enough.