Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #22: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #22: The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking #1
Published by Candlewick on July 14, 2009
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Pages: 479
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

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.

First Sentence: “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”

Funny story. A few years ago I DNFed this book on the very first page. The dialect and the dog talking about poo and I was out of there. Of course, later I heard how epic and amazing it worth it the book was, and this is part of why I generally fear DNFs. Anyway, a reader finally forced me to give this series another try and, though I’m still a bit unsure just how I feel about this book that I just finished, I’m glad I did.

First off, The Knife of Never Letting Go is legit. Originally published in 2009, this book predates the whole dystopian craze, and isn’t a romance novel in disguise. Ness’ world building is a little bit insane (literally), but also very unique and captivating. I don’t want to say too much about it, since the way the information unfolds is one of the big pluses of the book, but Ness does explain how things came about, and it’s really cool that developing the world is obviously his main focus.

Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, the last boy, to become a man on his thirteenth birthday in a month. There are no women in Prentisstown, all dead from the Noise germ. The Spackle, now killed by the settlers, used germ warfare during the war, and one of the germs made men’s thoughts audible and killed all the women. Life in Prentisstown is angry and unhappy, a slow extinction. Men’s thoughts create a cacophony of sound, and Todd likes to escape the Noise whenever he can. The concept of the Noise is so cool, and I love the way it’s represented in the text. It’s sort of like that Mel Gibson movie What Women Want, only everyone can hear what every man thinks.

Well, actually the Noise affects more than just humans, which brings me to my favorite character: Manchee. Remember the dog talking about poo? Well, he’s adorable and I want to hug him forever. All animals can speak (though not in the traditional form of speech) on New World. Some don’t have a whole lot to say, like sheep, which pretty much just say “sheep.” Manchee’s a pretty young pup, but you can actually see him learning throughout the book and getting smarter. He also undergoes a lot of abuse and the damn book nearly made me cry.

The dialect of the writing took some getting used to for me, but Blood Red Road paved the way for me to be able to enjoy this style. It took a couple hundred pages for me to adjust, but I did, and can now declare that I think Ness did a really good job with it. The dialect has a natural flow and is no thicker than it needs to be. I actually read some of the dialogue aloud and there’s a really natural cadence to it, the sort that suggests Ness got things just right.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is also suitably scary and dark. There’s really not much happiness to be had on Prentisstown, and life is almost entirely hopeless. This is how I like my dystopias. Also, no one comes out of this with their hands clean, even the most likable characters. Living on New World means getting your hands dirty.

Two things did bother me about The Knife of Never Letting Go though. First, the fact that, though this isn’t Todd’s written account so far as I can tell, it’s edited so he says “effing,” even when he didn’t actually censor himself that way. He does try to remember to say effing instead, but if he said “fuck” then that’s what the text should say, in my opinion. Second, how was Aaron not dead? This crazy guy Aaron should have been dead a couple chapters in but he just kept showing up again. I’m just not convinced humans can survive all of what happened to that guy, which gave me some serious suspension of disbelief issues.

If you’ve not entirely written off the dystopian genre and are still game for ones without romance and with plenty of world building, do yourself a favor and read The Knife of Never Letting Go. I’ll be reading the whole series, and I’m really curious to find out where it’s going after that ending.

Favorite Quote:

“The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”

Up Next:

All the Truth That's in Me - Julie Berry

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be All the Truth That’s in Me, by Julie Berry.

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12 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #22: The Knife of Never Letting Go”

  1. Alessandra says:

    I loved this book, even though the cliffhanger at the ending is very mean. I’ve read the first two books in the series, but I haven’t found the courage to finish it yet – I’m afraid it’s going to have an open ending and I’m a bit wary of that.

    • Christina says:

      Hmmm, I already can’t remember exactly how it ended. My memory is the worst. Haha. I sometimes like open endings on things like this, but we’ll see.

  2. Bonnie R says:

    Man, Manchee was my absolute favorite too. Funny thing, I actually DNF’d this super early too. The dialect was too difficult for me to read so I ended up trying this out on audio and this series are some of my favorite audiobooks ever. The way they did the Manchee voice was THE BEST. It reminded me of the dog from Up. Glad you gave this one another shot, I know I am too. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, back in the day I refused to read anything in dialect, but I’m slowly broadening my tastes. It will never be my preference, but I can at least appreciate the art and skill in it now. I’ve never actually seen up, but I know that Squirrel gif. Lol.

  3. Renae M. says:

    Yay, this makes me happy! Like you, I didn’t give this one 5 stars, but it’s still awesome. MANCHEE. Damn that one scene. TEARS. Although, yeah—like I said, Ness really likes to “kill” his characters but not actually kill him. It’s probably the series’ biggest failing, in my opinion, since he does it over and over again. But still, as you said, this book is legit.

    • Christina says:

      I managed not to cry ONLY because I made someone spoil for me whether that was going to happen, so I was STEELED. Gah. Why do authors do this to me? Yeah, Aaron should have been dead like ten times over.

  4. Micheline D says:

    I’ve been resisting this one, despite how SO many people have praised & recommended it and I think it’s mostly due to the dialect-style of writing. It’s the same reason I still haven’t read Blood Red Road (which I do own!) Like you, I think I’ll start with BRR and then get my hands on this one. The dog-abuse kind of scares me too but I guess you can only hear/read a book being praised so many times until you finally cave right?

    • Christina says:

      I would start with BRR maybe. It was my conversion. Also, it doesn’t open with a dog discussing poop. Haha. BRR’s maybe a bit more easy to get into, I think. The dog abuse made me so sad.

  5. Amanda says:

    I’ve heard wonderful things about this book but haven’t had the time/inclination to start it yet. I bought the ebook version back when it was a deal a few months ago and still haven’t read it. *sigh* Soon, I hope. Reading reviews like yours and Renae’s makes me excited to finally read it. I *think* I like books with dialect, but it’s been a while since I’ve read one. One thing I do know is I’ll have to be in the right mood/state of mind to digest the dialect and different writing style. But it really sounds as if this book is worth all the initial effort. And I’m liking the fact that it sounds like a true dystopian and isn’t a romance in disguise.
    It sounds like it was a really good thing that you have Sade Hawkins Sunday so you could have the chance to retry this book. 🙂 Wonderful review, Christina!

    • Christina says:

      I still wouldn’t call myself a dialect fan, but at least I won’t dismiss them out of hand anymore. I call that progress. There’s an impending romance, but nothing much in that vein in here! Yes, I like Sadie Hawkins for getting me moving on things like this!

  6. OMG I’m so very glad you gave this another chance! I admit I also was weirded out in the beginning. A friend picked it up on my request and also couldn’t get past the first bit.

    I also had the same thoughts on the dialect and how Blood Red Road helped me deal with that and you really do get used to it. Manchee? <333 I fell in love and damn it I totally cried.

    I think I compared Aaron to Michael Myers in my review. lol The guy would not die!

    Once again, so glad you got back into this book and ended up enjoying it. I hope you’ll like the rest of the series! It’s one of my favorites. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      When I’m picking books for myself, I’m an incredibly moody reader, so DNFing in a couple pages was pretty common back in the day. Reviewing has helped me.

      I’ve not seen any Michael Myers things. Horror is so not my genre. I can handle it in books, but not films at all.

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