Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Book 1 in the Chaos Walking Trilogy)
Author: Patrick Ness
Publication Date: 22nd October 2008
Synopsis: Imagine you’re the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don’t fit in with their plans…
Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run…
Review: Patrick Ness has the power to manipulate emotions, to evoke such sadness, such rage or such happiness simply by rearranging the 26 letters of the alphabet in a certain way. After reading A Monster Calls, I didn’t think that A Knife of Never Letting Go could match up to it in terms of emotional turmoil but, once again, I was proven wrong. Injustice and innocence are just two of the major themes within this book and the pure rage I felt at the end for Todd’s plight was overwhelming. I gave 4.5 stars simply because I was so angry at Patrick Ness for not giving Todd a happy, justified ending after everything he has been through and suffered, for keeping it real and reminding us that life doesn’t always give us what we want or deserve.
To begin with the concept of the book was strange, I couldn’t get to grips with the ‘Noise’ factor of the plot, however, as the book progressed I understood that it became a symbol of Todd’s innocence. Many of the men in the story had the ability to control their noise, to only allow certain parts of it to be seen and to hide the aspects that they wanted to keep secret while Todd was unable to do so. His noise was clear for everyone to see, even though there were times when I as the reader prayed for him to cover it up for his own protection, his inability to do so shows that he is untainted, too innocent for secrets and lies which is an integral part of his survival.
Ness portrayed noise wonderfully in this book and there were several parts where the reader can experience noise for themselves and feel how uncomfortable and incessant it is.
This is how we’re introduced to noise and Ness perfectly displays it as complete chaos by using grouped words and different fonts to represent thoughts. However, in the final quarter of the book, the noise becomes intergrated with Todd’s thoughts and it creates an uncomfortable chaotic interaction between Todd and the reader:
Todd: Todd is the main protagonist who tells us at the beginning that, by Prentisstown standards, he is not a man for another month. He is a boy who represents pure innocence, an innocence that is constantly trying to be crushed by the men of Prentisstown, once his innocence in destroyed, he will become a ‘man’. Todd’s character is a direct contrast to Viola’s as he lives in an archaic, chauvanistic world where anything different or modern is spurned and hated. He was brought up by two men, Ben and Cillian, and he has only ever had angry, testosterone filled men as role models and the effects of this upbringing can be seen in the way he constantly criticises himself, especially when it comes to his emotions and feelings. As the story progresses, Todd matures and grows in confidence, he does become a man, but not in the conventional way that is expected of him being from Prentisstown. He is different and he embraces that, even though it costs him a hell of a lot.
Viola: Viola is an alien in Todd’s world; not only is she a traveller from the Old World to the New World, she is also female, something that Todd has never seen or known. Viola represents change and a modern age, she is a strong young woman who is more mature and less innocent than Todd, mainly due to her upbringing. She was taught to read and write while Todd wasn’t as it was banned in his town and for much of the book, Viola is the stronger of the duo.
Manchee: Manchee was my favourite character as he not only provided comic relief but he was also the epitome of love in this book. Manchee is Todd’s dog who he openly admitted that he didn’t want, however, the bond between dog and master grows throughout the book and through Manchee it is easy to see why a dog is deemed a man’s best friend. Manchee, much like Todd, represents innocence and provides a comedic element through his simplistic nature such as telling us through his noise that he needs to go to the toilet which contrasts wonderfully with Todd’s loud and complicated noise. As long as Manchee has Todd and is fed, he is happy and is a strong reminder to us as the readers that sometimes a simplier way of thinking can lead to a happier existance.
Ben & Cillian: Ben and Cillian are Todd’s guardians who raise him from a baby and are portrayed as kind, loving people even though Todd and Cillian rarely see eye to eye. Throughout the book, there are strong connotations that Ben and Cillian are a gay couple who are very much in love and who have successfully raised Todd and given him strong foundations in a loving home. Ness shows the importance of these characters through Todd’s noise as they are frequently thought about with deep affection and are the source of his strength throughout his journey. They perfectly display gay couples in strong parenting roles and, in this book, they are the most successful parents within the New World.
Once again, Patrick Ness has brought a world to life and enabled me to live within it. You don’t simply watch Todd on his journey, you walk every step of the way with him and feel his happiness and his pain. I look forward to reading the second installment in the series, but first I have to emotionally recover from this book.