Book Review | The Knife of Never Letting Go

written by Wenlock Books' apprentice, Jasmine

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback
Price: £7.99

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Then, just a month away from the birthday that will make Todd Hewitt a man, he unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible. 

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy and tells the story of Todd, the only boy left in a town occupied by 146 men and 1 boy. In a world where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, Prentisstown is a very overwhelming and frightening place to live. After wandering through a patch of absolute silence, Todd and his dog Manchee are forced to run as far away from Prentisstown as they can.

This is the first Patrick Ness book that I’ve read and it’s clear why he’s won so many awards for his Young Adult books. It took me a few pages to get into the story but from chapter 2 onwards I was completely captivated. I’ve never read a book so exhilarating or intense, and after a couple of chapters I’d be so exhausted that I’d feel like I needed a full body massage and a long nap.

With many YA books that I read, I’m quite content knowing roughly where the story is going to take me but with The Knife of Never Letting Go I had no idea what was going to happen in the upcoming chapter let alone the rest of the book. Every sentence was important to the story, and there was no unnecessary filling which I was really grateful for as it’s rare that I read something concise enough that I’m gripped by every word.

I’d compare The Knife of Never Letting Go to The Hunger Games series as both are set in dystopian worlds and both feature a teenage character at war with a town of authority. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is at war with the Capitol and in this book Todd is at war with Prentisstown. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games but I think I enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go a bit more because it contains no element of romance. Perhaps in book 2 or 3 there will be, but in this book there wasn’t. It’s not often that YA novels tell a story about a teenage boy and girl without including a token romantic plot line and I was so happy that the focus of this book was on friendship instead.

Another thing that I loved about this book was that gender roles were not just discussed but completely disregarded. Patrick included plenty of strong females as well as male characters that showed emotions and weakness. YA fiction really champions strong women and I think that this book is a great example of that. I also loved how fear and heartbreak were explored throughout, and I think it’s these realistic emotions that allowed me to feel so connected to a story set in such a distant world.

Earlier in the review I mentioned that it took me a little while to get into this book which was due to needing to adjust to the presence of a talking dog (Manchee, I love you), and also getting used to Todd’s narration. Todd’s voice is very chatty and frantic which combined with the phonetic spellings of words like ‘preparayshuns’ or ‘direkshuns’ made this a very immersive read once I’d read a few pages. I think that Patrick did such a good job of conveying individual characters through their speech, and because the dialect was so well written I felt that I knew exactly what each person sounded like. It’s these layers of detail that made this book so special for me, and I really can’t wait to read the sequel.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is an action-packed story of discovery, friendships, family and truth, and is a book that I would recommend to anyone. I was gripped by every page and was so invested in the characters that I cried on quite a few occasions and read well into the night to finish it. I can’t remember the last time that I read a book filled with this much suspense and yet I completely loved feeling as tense as I did. If you’re after an engaging and exciting read then this is definitely for you!