Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review #2: The Knife Of Never Letting Go

While I was at my Highlights Workshop, our faculty highly recommended we all read The Knife Of Never Letting Go.  Since there are talking animals in the book, I thought it would be particularly helpful for my own writing and was very eager to check it out!

Here's what Patrick Ness' website has to say about the book:

"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

After reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, I can see why our faculty thought so highly of it.  Patrick Ness is a very talented author and crafts a story that is strong in both its writing and plot.  The premise itself hooks you from the get-go: New World is a place where everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts--from the creatures in the swamp to the Mayor when he's sitting on his toilet.  No one is spared from this phenomenon, with one exception (which is a big part of the novel, so I'm not going to ruin it for you!)  The story is told in first person from Todd's perspective and is a great example of a strong "voice."  In addition to raging thoughts (both his own and everyone else's who invades his mind), Todd also has a dialect and punchy attitude.  The way we see the world through Todd's eyes, and how he reacts as his world unravels around him, is moving and unforgettable.  Readers are completely along for the roller-coaster ride, trying to keep pace with Todd as he outruns the baddies and flees for his life.  This break-neck pace makes the story move swiftly along, and I'm not sure I've ever read a book that had such cliff-hanger chapter endings that FORCE you to read on.  (Seriously, my husband had to shut the book for me at one point.  I wish I could write cliffhangers like that!)  It's a delightfully intricate and exciting story, too, and keeps you guessing (and laughing) all the way through the last page.

Now, back to the talking animals.  The way Ness makes his animals "talk" (or speak/think if that's a more appropriate term for it) is done quite well.  You can tell he put a lot of time into deciding how each different animal would sound and what sorts of things they would say.  These are not beings of higher intelligence; they are simply normal animals whose everyday thoughts can be heard and interpreted by humans.  The crocs say, "Flesh...feast...tooth," the squirrels shout taunts from the trees, and, well, I'll leave the rest to be surprises for you.  Todd's dog, Manchee, is the best animal of them all.  Though the pup's vocabulary may not consist of many words, what he does say is funny and infused with emotion that simply makes you love him to pieces.  Studying the way Ness portrays animal language is certainly useful in your own writing if you want a cat or elephant to speak in your story.

If you like unique, futuristic stories, The Knife of Never Letting Go is a great choice for you!  If you love stories with strong human-animal relationships, this is also the perfect book for you.  And if you want to study a creative way of portraying human-animal communication in your writing, you should definitely see Ness' talents at work.

You can find out more about Patrick Ness on his website at: http://www.patrickness.com/.  If you read this book, do let me know!  I'd love to hear what you think.  

And just in case you were wondering, do you know what sick ferrets say?

"No more medicine!  I don't want it!  It's yucky!  I hate it!  Blegh!  Leave me alone!"

Link says, "Yuck!"

Note: Cover photo is from Amazon.com.  The photograph is of my husband feeding our sick ferret, Link, his meds.


  1. oh. my. CUTENESS. you seriously make me want a ferret. or I just want to steal link! toooo funny!

  2. Haha, take him! Please! We don't want to deal with his medicine tantrums anymore! (Thank goodness he's cute, or he would have one heck of a time finding someone to patiently give him his meds!)