Todd Hewitt is only one month away from turning thirteen years old – and in Prentisstown, the small settlement where he grew up and spent his whole life, turning thirteen already means becoming a man. But Prentisstown is no town like others, especially for Todd who is the last boy in this last settlement of the whole planet where only 146 men are all what’s still left of mankind – 146 men and not a single woman. All the women of Prentisstown died after they got infected by what the settlers call the „Noise germ“ which also caused as a side effect that everybody can hear everybody’s thoughts so that life in this settlement is never really quiet and there are always dozens of voices in every man’s head. The only spot where life seems to calm down a little bit is in the swamp on the outskirts of Prentisstown where Todd can find a little refuge from the ever-surrounding Noise. But 30 days before his thirteenth birthday Todd makes a disturbing discovery while wandering the swamp with his dog Manchee because right in the middle of the wild he finds something he never would have expected to find in all the noise: a spot of complete silence – and with this discovery Todd’s whole life suddenly falls apart…
Living in a dying world where privacy is a complete utopia
Imagine a world where all thoughts are audible for you and everybody around you: everybody knows your deepest secrets, can always read your mind and knows exactly what your thinking and what you are going to do – picture this and you know exactly what Todd Hewitt’s life is like in Patrick Ness’ „The Knife of Never Letting Go“, the first book in the „Chaos Walking“ series. While we worry nowadays if government agencies or cyber terrorists can read your private mail correspondence or hack your bank accounts, Todd grew up in a world where there is no privacy AT ALL. All his thoughts, fears, desires and secrets are out in the world for everybody to hear and it’s only a small comfort that he can hear the thoughts of the people around him as well. This situation seems already highly terrifying to me but the fact that Todd is living in a world where a deadly germ killed most of the human population makes his life even more unbearable to me, especially since he is the only one who hasn’t become a man due to his young age and therefore is completely alone except for his adoptive parents Ben and Cillian who are the only ones who care about him and offer some protection. If you find this setting alone already as shocking and disturbing than I do than let me tell you that for Todd Hewitt, this is normality and just what his life has ever been like – and it will only get worse in this story, so better prepare for lots of pain.
A terrifying but exciting setting with lots of secrets to be unravelled
I was probably the last person to read „The Knife of Never Letting Go“ among my bookish friends and since everybody seemed to absolutely love the Chaos Walking series my expectations became higher and higher with every enthusing review so that I got almost scared that the book couldn’t live up to it but it only took me a few pages to know that I would love the book as well. Patrick Ness already had me hooked with the terrifying Noise setting but the more I learned about Prentisstown the more addicted I became to the novel since Ness definitely knows how to suck his readers into Todd’s world because with every new chapter he raises more questions that leave you restless until you finally get the answers. While some people find it rather annoying if authors keep the background history of their fictional worlds a secret for a long time, stories like this usually have me hooked right from the start because I’m always going crazy in my head and want to find out about ALL THE SECRETS and therefore took every little bait that was laid out without a single bit of resistance. I had so many questions that almost drove me crazy like: What happened to all the girls and women of Prentisstown? Why are there two moons? Why does the year have 13 months in this world? Why can even the animals speak? And even though Ness really seems to enjoy teasing his readers like this he’s never unfair and regularly offers new pieces of information – which of course raise a dozen new questions.
Welcome to Todd Hewitt’s mind
What also made „The Knife of Never Letting Go“ very captivating for me was Ness’ writing style because he not just tells the story through Todd’s eyes, he also lets you see into his mind and it really feels like Todd himself is telling it and not just some narrator through his point of view. All the events, descriptions and thoughts are told in the slang of Prentisstown and just the way Todd actually experiences them which means there are not only foreign expressions but also unfinished sentences, random thoughts or thoughts from people around him that reach him whether he wants it or not and in an unfiltered and chaotic way – so it really feels as if you’re part of this world yourself and can listen to Todd’s Noise. I admit that it took me a few pages to get used to this kind of narration but then I absolutely loved it because it makes the reading experience even more intense. It’s also one of the things that make it possible to relate so easily to Todd as the protagonist of the story and live through this nightmare right next to his side.
Extremely compelling, highly addictive and very painful
I don’t really want to tell too much about the story itself because I think it can be experienced best if you dive blindly into this adventure (like I did and also like Todd has to do it) and even though it was completely different than I expected (though I’m not even sure what exactly I had expected^^) I found this book extremely compelling and highly addictive because there’s always another secret that wants to be unravelled and another evil cliffhanger that doesn’t allow you to put the book down. Yes, it’s painful to read because Todd not only has to live through lots of shit in this story but also has to make some tough decisions that almost break him but it’s so worth getting hurt because it’s such a unique story. There are only two things that bothered me a bit: a) even though I found the concept of the Noise really terrifying and liked a lot how Ness integrated it into the story I often found it to be a bit too clean. Of course this is a book that is primarily directed at young adults but to me the Noise sometimes still felt a bit censored especially regarding the fact that Todd is living in a world full of dangerous MEN that won’t hesitate to kill. My other point of criticism concerns the story itself because I sometimes had the impression that it was a little bit repetitive since often the same enemies show up over and over again even though they already seemed defeated. But that’s complaining on a very high level and those aspects only had a tiny negative impact on my reading experience. If you’re still unsure whether to read this book or not then let me tell you that Patrick Ness even succeeded at making me care about A DOG – and if you know me than this says a lot about the quality of this novel. 😉 So if there are still any people out there who haven’t read „The Knife of Never Letting Go“ yet: GO READ IT RIGHT NOW!