On My Bookshelf: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

November 16, 2015

In The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Todd is the only boy left in a town of men, all of whom hear the Noise, the thoughts of other men. When Todd unexpectedly finds a girl, the two must flee his home town and he discovers that the world is not the place he was raised to believe it was.
Basic plot: Todd is the only boy left in Prentisstown and his 13th birthday, the day he will become a man is soon approaching. Like all of the other males in Prentisstown, he can hear the Noise (the thoughts) of the other men and animals and his Noise can be heard just as clearly. The same germ that infected all of the men with the Noise killed all of the women in Prentisstown, so Todd is shocked when he and his dog Manchee discover a creature with no noise, a girl, down by the swamp at the edge of town. With this discovery, Todd's caretakers, Ben and Cillian (his parents are long dead), tell him he must leave Prentisstown taking with him his mother's journal, even though he can't read very well. Todd saves the girl, Viola, from Aaron, the twisted religious leader of Prentisstown and the two escape into the next town over, one that Todd did not know even existed. Viola turns out to be a settler from outer space, much like the founders of Prentisstown. As Todd and Viola flee, chased by a growing army of Prentisstown men, Todd realizes that more and more of what he was taught about the world is not true.

Why I liked it: The plot was well-crafted with the truth about Prentisstown slowly being revealed and a completely unexpected ending. The characters were well developed, from the lovable Manchee (Todd's dog) to the feisty Hildy, to the creepy Aaron, who just won't die. I look forward to reading the other books in the trilogy and it looks like plans for a movie are in the works.

The mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopia was similar to War of Rain, where the future was reminiscent of the past. While in War of Rain, life was primitive, barely beyond caveman times, in The Knife of Never Letting Go, life is very simple, farm based with little technology. The "settlers" land in spaceships, but the settlements have no phones, cars, etc.

Classroom application: The novel could be used as a mentor text for creating voice. The narrator has a very distinct dialect/use of language, but it does not inhibit a reader's understanding.

The novel could also be used in a genre study or in literature circles to compare how different authors view the future and the dystopian societies they imagine.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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