Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review - The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

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


  1. I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID. I absolutely loved this book, despite the fact that my poor emotions were hardly recognizable by the end.

    I'm pretty sure I know what "incident" you're talking about, and trust me, I had to put the book down for a couple hours before I could go on. I was absolutely devastated, and I almost considered not finishing it. I also ended up hating Tom for the rest of the book.

    As cruel as it sounds, I'm glad that somebody had the same emotional reactions as I did while reading this, haha.

    1. I'm sure you know exactly the part I'm talking about haha. I was expecting it since everyone talks about how sad the book is, but then when it happened...there was no way to prepare. I was seriously thinking of not finishing the book out of protest lol.

      I'm glad you felt the pain, too! Haha. Makes me feel less alone in my misery. Thanks so much for the awesome comment!

  2. Aw, sorry this was so rough for your Kelly! Is it crazy for me to admit this is my favorite series ever, and one of my favorite authors?! I know! I get it! He really challenges the reader and just slams so much damn emotion into a book. But I don't know, that's what I love about it. A book that can make me feel and think that much sticks with me. I've even pulled them all out of my boxes in the basement because I really want to reread them to experience it all again. How's that for insane? ;)

    1. No, it makes perfect sense. You're a masochist. Haha just kidding. (Sort of.) I kind of think if I'd read this book five years ago, I'd have loved it as much as it deserves to be loved, despite the waterworks it inspired. But I don't know, I just couldn't connect with any characters that didn't suffer tragically. Wait...were there any that didn't suffer tragically? O.o

      Anyway, thanks for the comment, Asti! And I'm sure you know, but just in case you forgot exactly how tear-jerky this book is when you go in for a reread, buy a whole case of Kleenex.

  3. The Knife Of Never Letting Go sounds... intense. And I'd love to read it, but can't read books that have any kind of pets, dogs are especially a no-no. One "dog book" scarred me for life... Sigh.
    But fantastic review!

    1. Intense...yes. And because the MCs are so young, it's got this innocent feel at first that makes all the gut-twisting later on that much gut-twistier(?). I can be the same with animals in books. I'm always the one crying over the beloved pet's death harder than the owner's haha.

      Thanks so much, Cayce!

  4. I heard that Knife of Never Letting Go was great, but I also heard it was downright emotional. I guess it's one of those books I won't pick up until I'm in the mood for. But I really want to read it to know what the fuss is about.

    1. Oh, it is! The book spends three quarters of its length getting you invested in certain characters, only to rip them away from you in the most painful way possible. It's definitely a mood read, but if you're looking for a good cry, here's your book.


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