Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I resisted reading The Knife of Never Letting Go for years. This one has gotten really positive buzz all over the place. Even from crotchety Facebook "real life" friends who don't seem to like anything...ever. And from all of the reactions I've read, and from my own experience reading Ness's A Monster Calls, I was hesitant. Beyond hesitant, really. Unwilling, more like. Because I knew this book was going to hurt to read. I knew it was going to tackle tough subjects and break my heart. I knew there was a damn good chance it would make me cry and leave me reeling. 

Because Patrick Ness is acutely tuned-in to emotional triggers. I don't find him an author that is overly manipulative. Mitch Albom is manipulative and maudlin (don't ask, it's probably a post all its own). Patrick Ness simply knows how to write painfully true characters. 

That said, teen boys can be some of my least favorite characters. Their brand of whining and hard-headedness can be supremely annoying. Thus, I didn't particularly care for Knife's narrator, Todd Hewitt, in the beginning. He's kind of dense and stubborn to a fault. He's resistant and unwilling to compromise. He's insensitive at times. However, the magic in this book is that Todd's behavior is permissible and forgivable.  He's ill-informed by those around him who choose to keep secrets about his civilization's history and his own family legacy. He's misled and mistreated, scared, daunted by officially turning into a "man" at the age of 13. Ness is exceptional at writing characters who are flawed and realistic...who are thrown into exceptional, painful circumstances. Todd grows, and I loved reading it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Barnes and Noble does a much better job of summarizing this book than I could ever do...
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in [Prentisstown] 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.
So despite my doubts from early on, I fell in love with these characters. I felt for Todd as he learned his settlement's--and his world's--history. I cringed when he made bad choices, and I mentally begged him not to be so damn stubborn. I cheered for Viola for her resourcefulness and reason. I adored Todd's dog, Manchee, and his simple, loyal voice. I hated the villains: Aaron, the religious fanatic and hypocrite, the dictatorial Mayor Prentiss, and his factions. 

And I was right in my assumption that Ness would rake me over the coals. I cried and I cheered, and I was utterly swept along by the intensity of this story. I hated him at times for making me feel more than I wanted to. Sadder or madder. And I rooted for the characters in their best moments, bouncing e-mails back and forth to Heather when I was lingering near a cliffhanger or had just come through a big surprise twist.

And if it gives you any indication of how invested I was in this story, for the first time in my reading life, I sought out spoilers for one particular aspect of the plot that I thought might well kill me with anxiety. Just to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for its coming. That sounds utterly crazy, but it's true. 

Beyond my warm feelings for the characters, I admire what Ness does here in the larger sense. He's dealing with issues of information overload. There is no privacy for the residents of Prentisstown, and he thoroughly explores the power struggles that breed and multiply, and the complications that arise from a steady flow of noise and a lack of solace. It's us. It's now handled metaphorically--our noise, our lack of privacy, government intent on secrets, the withholding of information as important as that which is available for the masses. 

I read this book in two days, which for me is extremely fast, and I immediately downloaded the second book in the trilogy, The Ask and Answer. Am I emotionally prepared for it? I have no idea. But I can't wait to try and to see where we end up. 

And I have to thank Heather. She forced me to read the book, you see. I'd hummed and hawed about it for so long that she sent the e-book for my birthday in November. Heather, you're always right. 





Pub. Date: July 2009 
Publisher: Candlewick
Format: E-book
ISBN-13: 9780763645762
Source: A gift!







28 comments:

  1. And don't you forget it. lol

    Gawd, you about made me cry all over again. I can't think of Todd without getting a little teary eyed.

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    1. It is a totally cry-worthy book. Even in recap. Now I need to buckle down, get my head out of my butt, and start reading again. All these weather alerts are distracting.

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  2. I really want to read this book but like you I'm hesitant. A Monster Calls had me curled up in a duvet sobbing my heart out and I just know he'll do it to me again. I'll get there one day but I'll just make sure I'm surrounded by tissues, chocolate and my puppy when I do.

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    1. Ellie, it's worth it, but it's hell. Definitely chocolate, tissues, and puppy snuggles.

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  3. Oh, this was absolutely a book that could wring every emotion out of you. I sobbed and I cheered as I read it. I don't think I could continue reading this series. It would just be too hard to keep going through that.

    Great review!

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    1. JoanneMarie, I had second thoughts about reading the rest of the series, but I'm gonna. I also can't leave them and not know how it all plays out.

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  4. My sister adored this whole series!

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  5. This series really is intense. I felt emotionally wrecked with each book.

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    1. Melissa, cheers to the wreckage!

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  6. The whole series is intense, and when I'd finished I think I had felt ALL the feelings. Ness is a genius, and this may sound cheesy but there really is an overarching message to these books that I think is the most powerful I have ever read in YA lit or in any kind of book, period. This is my want-to-hit-someone-over-the-head-until-they-read-this-book book.

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  7. Beth, he is stinkin' brilliant. I saw it in A Monster Calls and to an even higher level in this series. He just has such a wonderful way of tackling very complicated topics in such touching and vivid ways. Good stuff! Can't wait to dig into the rest of the series.

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  8. I meant to read eye second book soon after the first but so much time has passed now that I probably need to re-read...

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    1. Joanna, a good summary with some spoilers might suffice. :)

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  9. I really need to read this author.

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    1. YES, you do, Amanda! Just be aware, it's kinda stressful.

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  10. Andi, I just posted my review of this today and finished the sequel on Sunday. You are probably not emotionally prepared for The Ask and the Answer, but that's in the best way possible.
    I can't wait to see what you think of the rest of the series, especially since you articulated what I loved about the first book so well. :)

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    1. I read your review and will go back and comment soon. Was on my phone at the time and the commenting is hard that way. lol And thank you re: articulation. This one was HARD to review.

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  11. You and Lindsey are smacking me over the head with this book today ;) I won't bother resisting! Onto the mental tbr pile it goes

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    1. Oh girl, put it on the physical TBR. Mental, nothin'. ;)

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  12. I just said the same thing to Lindsay over on her review, but I adored this series, too (despite my general meh-ness over YA). Make sure to read A Monster Calls when you're finished!

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    1. Shannon, I've read that already and it tore me to shreds! In the best way. :)

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  13. Oh God. Hooray. I saw this post in my feed reader, and I was afraid that maybe it turned out you were overhyped on Patrick Ness and ended up hating this. Phew. Phew. I am glad you did not. Oh, and The Ask and the Answer is even better. And Monsters of Men is painfully wonderful. I want to read it thrice.

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    1. Looooved it! Can't wait to read The Ask and the Answer now. I'm so glad to hear it's even better.

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  14. Holy cow, Andi. Awesome review. This book has officially been added to my June TBR. I cannot wait to read. I'm worried about the dog though...dogs destroy me.

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    1. OMG I cannot wait for you to read it! And dogs ALWAYS pull on my heartstrings in the biggest ways.

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