Feb 19, 2011

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go

I love young adult books.  They're some of the most inventive stories out there.  This is one of them:

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (2008)

Allegedly the perfect town, Prentisstown consists of only men and the villagers can see and hear every man’s thoughts through “Noise.”  But when Todd Hewitt, the last “boy” in town, stumbles upon a girl in the woods, it sparks his escape from the town he’s known his whole life and a journey to the discovery of a deadly secret.  His world is turned upside down as he is forced to fight for his life and escape the townsmen who can hear his every thought.  

The Knife of Never Letting Go
, the first in Ness’ Chaos Walking series, is a dystopian novel about the struggle to survive.  For me, this first part of the series was amazingly gripping.  I was actually unaware that this novel was part of a series so I was incredibly frustrated, yet thrilled, when I reached the cliffhanger ending, as it meant more time in this strange world Ness created.  Yes, I’m a nerd like that.
See the random words written all over
the cover? That would be the "Noise."

While the plot just follows the archetypal hero’s journey, the way Ness utilizes narration to build suspense is a refreshing take on a traditional literary model.  The first person narration provides a gateway to understand the emotional upheaval Todd experiences as he flees his pursuers and grapples with the truth about his past.  However, the inclusion of “Noise” allows us to experience the thoughts of other men as well.  “Noise” is displayed through various fonts and sizes, effectively garnering attention with its disruption of the traditional text form.  This disruption places emphasis on how “Noise” is such an interrupting force in the villagers’ lives.  It’s frustrating to get used to at first, but because it builds trust in his narration, the impact is great.

It is not only a gripping adventure novel with fast-paced action, but its commentary on the transition from young adulthood to adulthood gives it a more poignant appeal.  At the novel’s beginning, Todd Hewitt believes that age is the definition of entering manhood.  However, throughout his flight from Prentisstown, Todd encounters more realistic determinations of growth that age does not control: leaving home, risking his life, protecting others, admitting defeat, and accepting the truth about his town’s past.  Thus, the novel’s fast-paced action parallels the fast-paced and challenging transition to adulthood. 

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