Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 15: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Where do I start? Well, I guess right off the bat I’ll say that I was disappointed. I expected great things, both because everyone seems to love this AND because I usually fall hard for dystopian YA. Coming off of The Hunger Games and hearing all the buzz around this series, I was ready to accept a new obsession into my life. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Chaos Walking trilogy will fill my void.

The rest is going behind a cut because there will be SPOILERS and because I want to invite everyone who has read this and loves it to prove me wrong and tell me why I should pick up the next book.

Personal problem: I nearly had to set the book down forever when Manchee died. Easily the saddest moment in a novel of the last year for me. This is not a point against the book, just so we’re clear. But that was the part of the book that affected me the most.

So, onto the real issues. First off, I found the whole thing to be pretty predictable. Todd and Viola think they’ve outrun the Prentisstown army again? NOPE! Count on Prentiss Jr or Aaron to come out of nowhere and engage them again in some kind of struggle that is written a lot like how shaky-cam fights are filmed. Also, the “big reveal” that the Prentisstown men (and boys who became men) killed all the women and the people who “disappeared” felt pretty anti-climatic. Yes, it’s a terrible thing, but the fate of the women was pretty easy to guess early on and the way it was built up for some reason made it seem like there was going to be some less obvious and/or more horrible aspect of the Prentisstown history.

Similarly, the big build-up of why everyone was so intent on capturing Todd was also such a let-down. They just wanted to make sure that they could turn him into a man by having him kill Aaron? Really? I felt about this revelation the way that I did when Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ended with aliens. We know about Todd that he is hesitant to kill, so in that way he is a good ‘get,’ but given that the Prentisstown men had no problem in the past simply making non-conformists disappear (aka they’re dead), I don’t understand why it became such an issue that Todd must become a killer. Sure he’s the Last Boy and all, but that’s really a kind of symbolic importance only, not a true basis of necessity.

Finally, when we get to the last few pages and find out that Haven just surrendered, I threw up my hands with a resigned WTF. We know from earlier that a) Haven is the biggest settlement Todd has ever seen, and b) townspeople from all of the settlements between Prentisstown and Haven fled there. Somehow, all of those people got there after running and decided “Well, fuck it. Let’s just surrender”? I am disappoint.

I’ll end on positives, because I’m an optimist like that. The Noise concept is pretty inventive and original, and cleverly presented in the novel. The characterization is pretty strong, and Ness is definitely successful in generating empathy for his protagonist(s) and the dog [sniff.] And, despite all of the issues I had with the plot, I still moved through it fairly quickly and found the pacing to be consistent and engrossing.

So, talk to me. I’m currently not planning on picking up book 2, but I’m not totally against it. Help me come around!

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