The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Just....Wow (Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by P. Ness)

The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness
Walker Books 2008

“Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.  But 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. 
Or are there? 
Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.  Which is impossible.  Prentisstown has been lying to him. 
And now he's going to have to run...”

(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

This is a book that I think most people interested in YA fiction have heard of. I certainly had, and as such found it quite intimidating – I literally had read no bad reviews of this title and kept adding it to and then taking it off my wish list, sure that I could only be disappointed by reading it.

For about the first 30 pages, I was sure that my suspicions had been correct. I couldn't get into the story – I found Todd's style of speech and thought processes uneven and hard to follow and couldn't get my head around the concept of Noise (which is how the constant rage of men's thoughts is referred to). I was seriously considering giving up. Then, I suddenly just got it. The story literally swept me away and I couldn't put it down.

Todd is an interesting character. He is certainly flawed, lacks confidence and is more than a little sullen when we first meet him. Through the course of the book he undergoes some of the best character development I have come across in recent fiction (YA or adult). He doesn't suddenly become a hero and he isn't always likeable, yet I couldn't help but really cheer for him all the way through the book. I don't think I have ever want things to work out for a character so much – the more that happens to him, the more you desperately want him to succeed. He doesn't always make the right choices and he doesn't always understand the implications of the choices that he does make, yet picks himself up and just keeps going be it on his literal journey to safety or the metaphorical journey towards manhood (the two of which collide stunningly towards the end of the book).

Viola is quite a different character. She reminded me more of the kind of character I am used to in fiction. Quite, determined and loyal she remains stoic and committed during some really awful encounters and also keeps Todd going when his belief system is constantly being contested. Their relationship is interesting, going from distrust to a tentative friendship to complete reliance on each other. At no point does this feel forced and it gives the story great credence that they don't fall into a romance that would, in all honesty, be completely unbelievable considering everything that they have to deal with.

Then there is Prentisstown – the place, and the people from whom Todd is running. It really is a place of pure evil, reflecting all the hate, rage, grief and bitterness of its inhabitants. It is the product of men who no longer have anything to lose having already lost more than they can possibly bear, and it is terrifying. It is a place that will stay with me for some time to come – Patrick Ness has gone incredibly close to the bone and created a place where there is no hope, joy or love and characters who made my skin crawl and kept me awake at night.

The actually writing style is pretty incredible. I've not come across anything quite like it but it conveys Todd's inner thoughts and turmoil incredibly effectively and there are also some very beautiful moments. I honestly think that, as an expression of his first glimpse of true friendship and hope for the future, the line, “Now that I've seen her, I can't stop seeing her” is stunning in its sheer simplicity.

I had rented this book from my local library but full intend to invest in not just a copy of this, but a copy of The Ask and the Answer as soon as I possibly can. I really cannot recommend this highly enough.


Carla said…
Do you know what? I haven't even got this book, but now it seems like a crime against all book lovers, because you make this sound mindblowing. I actually bought the second book in the series in the Borders closing down sale, and never really thought to buy the first one until now. I'm a big fan of anything that involves dystopia in some way. I think I need to buy this like yesterday. Thanks so much for the amazing and thoughtful review, you rock at this book blogging malarcy!!! <3
Lauren said…
This is so timely for me. I bought this ages ago on the recommendation of a blogger I always agree with, but for some reason I never felt like starting it. Last week I made a promise to make this the next 'bought' book I read, and now I'm actually feeling in the mood for it thanks to your review. I definitely get the impression from what you've said that I'll find it strange to start with, but once I 'click' with it there'll be no stopping me. Thanks for psyching me up again about this one.
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