But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
This book is impossible to rate properly, and damn near impossible to review. I have never had so many warring thoughts, emotions and opinions about a single book in my entire reading career. (Which, if you’re completely new to the entire concept of book blogging, is a very long career.)
Right now, I’m sitting in front of my computer, staring at the screen and willing the right descriptive words and phrases to come, but they’re all bottled and jammed in my head, all vying to escape at once. What I’m left with is a buzzing of warring thoughts so chaotic it’s like a wall of nothing…which is kind of the perfect segue into describing what the Noise is in this book. (I know you won’t believe me, but that was completely unintentional. Just convenient.)
So I guess the first thing to understand about The Knife Of Never Letting Go is that no man’s thoughts are his own. Every thought anyone in Prentistown could ever have escapes into the air in an audible, tangled mess of overlapping words and desires that becomes nothing more than an ever present, maddening noise – the Noise, to be exact. I guess that’s the very base concept of this book, the Noise. Todd Hewitt knows no life but the one exposed to constant Noise, and his memories of the female gender are nothing but words in a notebook and images in lustful men’s minds. This is established in the first few pages of the book, and sets the tone for the rest of it.
When Todd finds something shocking, something secret that he can’t know, he’s forced to flee Prentistown so that the thoughts of his forbidden knowledge don’t leak into the air and put him in danger. This is when the actual story starts, when the spoilers start piling up and cause me to be much more vague in my descriptions as a result.
The concept and plot of this novel are amazing. It’s a truly fresh, unique, and clever story. So when I say this, I mean it from the bottom of my heart: It is not the book’s fault that I didn’t really like it. It’s mine. I have some idea of why I was unable to connect with it, which I’ll get into since this is my review of my reading experience, but I want to make it perfectly clear right now. The Knife Of Never Letting Go is an amazing, creative book. It just wasn’t for me.
I’ll start with the characters. Todd and his non-canine companion are both young. Like, thirteen years old young. Which I’ll admit bothered me, because I’m too old to really connect with prepubescent characters anymore, so I kept thinking they should have this reaction to something when really they’re both a few years away from that line of thinking. In fact, it’s that canine companion of Todd’s, Manchee, that helped me hold the little interest I had in the book up until the last quarter, when it started getting better and more easily readable for me. I’m not saying Todd and Co. aren’t believable, fleshed-out characters, just that I couldn’t personally relate to them. Except for the dog. I freaking love that hyperactive puppy.
My second biggest issue with the book is the fact that it’s, how do I put this…. Evil. The book is evil. It takes you through the wringer of emotions so many times that your heart is left soggy and worn, jaded and broken in so many different places that you don’t know how you can put it back together. Even with the difficulty I had connecting with (most) of the characters for over half of this book, I was left a blubbering, sniveling mess for pretty much the entire last 150 pages. (There was even an incident when, while on a bus, I gasped loudly and had to cover my face to hide the sudden stream of tears. It didn’t go over very well, and resulted in the entire bus thinking I was more insane than I actually am.) Now I’ve mentioned in so many other reviews that I love a book that can pull on the heartstrings. And I do, I really do. But I’ve finally found the book that took it too far. When I managed to get my sobbing under control, I was left with anger at Patrick Ness for doing that to me, for making me feel so hopeless and miserable and just not happy. The man is a sadist, okay? To write this book, he has to be.
There isn’t much of a third issue, unless length counts. At just under 500 pages and with my lack of real enthusiasm, it took me two weeks to get through it. Two weeks to feel nothing but confusion over why I wasn’t liking the book, and pain over what poor Todd had to go through at the end. Two weeks to lead to the gigantic cliffhanger that calls me back even as it warns me away, because if what may happen happens, my sorrow will morph into uncontrollable rage that may result in me chucking The Ask And The Answer at my wall so hard I’ll be paying for repairs with my next paycheck.
I honestly can’t tell you if I liked this book or not. I can’t. Every time I’m about to type that I did, my heart rebels and asks how I could say that when ____ happened. But every time I’m about to type that I didn’t, my mind gets all logical on me and reminds me of all the amazing, effective, wonderful things about the book. So take what you will from this review, but I’m going to cop out and rate it 3 stars, since my respective mind and heart won’t let me rate it 2 or 4.
If you want to put yourself through the heartache and enter a world brimming with creativity and action, The Knife Of Never Letting Go may be perfect for you. But if you’re not the biggest book masochist, if you can’t stand the thought of losing not only one but multiple characters you grow to love while seeing others suffer, you need to not read this book. Seriously. Just don’t.
The Knife Of Never Letting Go - 3 out of 5 stars