The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Adam Silvera's recommendations very rarely go wrong, so when he recently fanboyed about Patrick Ness blurbing his next book, I decided it was high time I read some books by Mr. Ness. So I got out three from the library recently - not the whole Chaos Walking Trilogy, but this book and two of his standalones. After reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, though, I think it's safe to say I should have picked out the rest of the trilogy while I was at it.
It's a strange new world, to be sure. Our narrator, twelve-year-old Todd, talks in a weird phonetically-rendered dialect that, combined with the general post-apocalyptic western-type Mad Max setting, reminds me a lot of Moira Young's Blood Red Road. But unlike Young's book, where the dialect flies thick and heavy and comes combined with intentionally nonexistent grammar, Ness keeps things readable, not only because the dialect is still comprehensible to those of us used to something a little more standard, but because the plot keeps on moving at a breakneck pace, with more and more secrets around every corner.
It's also engaging because of the deal with the Noise, the inescapable telepathy of every man in Prentisstown (and Todd, who's still a month or so shy of official manhood - that is, turning thirteen). The author bio on the blurb makes it clear how the Noise represents the information overload of today's society, but there's another metaphor involved as well, one that you have to read the book to really truly discover. Small towns with no secrets? That's the sort of society where dictatorial theocracies would thrive best, and that's essentially what Prentisstown is. The men are controlled by those who would put the fear of God into them, which helps make them some of the most despicable villains in YA fiction by far. (Also, they're among the most despicable because of a certain fan-favorite death that, sadly, got spoiled for me years ago because of how popular this book is.)
For sure, I'll need to pick up the remaining two books of the trilogy ASAP.
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