I wish I knew where to start with this book.
This is the story of Todd. Todd has a dog named Manchee, and in his settlement on the New World, he becomes a man when he turns 13. Todd cannot wait to become a man. That is– until his caregivers tell him to run away and never return. Suddenly, Todd learns that his entire life is a lie, and the entirety of Prentisstown is after him. Thus begins almost 500 pages of chase scene where secrets are revealed about every 30 pages.
The way this book is written makes it almost impossible to avoid spoilers. Prepare for a lot of blurred text.
I feel incredibly conflicted about The Knife of Never Letting Go. Based on reviews from my friends, well, so do they. The concept is brilliant. Settlers have come to their New World to find freedom from the chaos of life and they choose a simpler, God-driven life. However, they were not prepared for The Noise.
“Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
That is, on this planet, men can all hear each other’s thoughts. They are chaotic and messy, and it makes it nearly impossible to hide things– to have secrets.
I love we can hear animals speaking thanks to The Noise. Sheep say “sheep”. Crocodiles about to eat you say “Flesh”. And the crickets chirp “sex sex sex”. It’s amazing and terrifying and brilliant. But this is also the reason my favorite character in this book is Manchee, Todd’s pet dog. Manchee is dim-witted and noble. He is exactly what a dog would be like. “Poo, Todd?” is his most common phrase. He sentences always end in question marks, too. The ever-loyal dog wants to make certain that he gets approval for everything. It’s adorable.
“When I sit down, he recurls by my legs and falls asleep, farting happily and giving a doggy sigh. Simple to be a dog.”
I enjoyed Todd character development. He didn’t have many people to interact with, but those he did interact with saw a lot of growth from him. Particularly, in reference to the knife he has and what is represents (So many spoilers I can’t even begin to elaborate), as well as understanding Viola. Todd’s world is turned completely on its head. As is to be expected, he begins with denial. But, slowly, as he opens himself to change and new things, we watch him grow. It’s not often I get to read about a single character changing so much over the course of a single novel. This struck me since I love relationship development in books, and this is exploring Todd’s relationship with himself.
“But a knife ain’t just a thing, is it? It’s a choice, it’s something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don’t. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again.”
What I struggled with the most in this book was what you might call Mortal Danger Fatigue. Our heroes are constantly feeling from extreme danger and constantly in danger of dying. Not only that, but they are being chased by the most ridiculous of villains:
I also struggled with what I envision as a misuse of first person present tense. This book is told from the perspective of Todd. And the purpose of this tense is to make it feel like you are physically there experiencing with our characters. However, I often found myself hesitating and re-reading content. Todd would frequently say things like, “Then he told me the truth and I couldn’t believe it.” And, as the reader, I never learned what the truth was. I questioned, “Is this a journal he’s writing after the fact?” My guess is that Ness was trying to help us understand how the Noise works– Todd has to leave things out of his narration or they fall into the Noise. It’s the only way to keep a secret. But as a reader, I was incredibly frustrated.
“Never let me go, says the knife-“
In the end, I think this is a really fascinating premise to a book. It’s a creative and new way to view a world. I love it. I just wish I didn’t have Mortal Danger Fatigue, and we had more characters to love.
I really want you to read this book and tell me what you think. Help me love it more.