I’m 50 or so pages away from finishing Patrick Ness’ The Knife of a Never Letting Go. I started it yesterday afternoon, downloading it from Overdrive. And read. And read. And read. I would’ve finished it but it was my bedtime and with wee reader around, I stick to my bedtime because he enjoys waking me up just before 6. So I put away the iPad with reluctance, and went to sleep. But not before I figured out why that song Ben sings sounded so familiar. It’s Spike’s trigger song (I just finished the Buffy series, so it’s all still fresh in my mind).
Ok I’m going too far ahead. Let’s backtrack. Patrick Ness is a name I’ve been hearing around the blogosphere for quite a while now. And so when happened to be browsing the Overdrive catalogue on the computer (overdrive users- did you know that their online catalogue is different from their mobile version? At least for the Singapore library catalogue that I use. The regular version has far more books, including this one, which is a PDF file, and if I’m not wrong, the mobile version only shows ePUB ebooks), I happened upon his books. And I was delighted!
The Knife of Never Letting Go has an interesting premise. Young Todd Hewitt is a month away from becoming a man. He is the last boy in Prentisstown. He lives in a world with no women (they are all dead) and everyone can hear the thoughts of men and animals (what do sheep think? Sheep). He has this delightful little dog named Manchee, loyal and amusing in a doggy-thought way (Squirrel! Squirrel!) (If Ness came up with a book just about Manchee, I think that would sell. He is a delight!). Imagine living with the thoughts of your neighbours and friends and family bombarding your brain every minute of every day. Noise indeed!
Ness is rather clever in the unfolding of his plot. He plunges the reader into this world rather convincingly, and it is one that surprises and then shocks. There is the great secret, the great history of Prentisstown, that everyone except Todd – and the reader – knows. Ness throws out these hints here and there, and you get the hint, you know what is coming up next, but you wait in anticipation for Todd to find out (and really, there’s a part of you who hopes it’s not true).
Sometimes when reading YA, I have to remind myself that these are teenagers/kids, and that kids do silly things. And here, Todd does some silly things, and some rather brave ones. It isn’t easy to like him. In face, I spent most of the book wishing it weren’t about him. Yet there were some other wonderful characters, like Manchee and the other people that Todd meets. Plus that idea of Noise, that one’s thoughts are constantly spilling out into the space around you. It isn’t the most original of thoughts, but the way that it is portrayed in the book, it is rather compelling.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is not a book for the fainthearted. There is all manner of foul in here – violence, murder, language (as in both swearing and deliberate misspellings). And perhaps worst of all, the ending is, as the Booklist review puts it: “as effective as a shot to the gut”. This is the thing I hate about series. In this case, you can’t just have that first book, you need the second one at hand – and I’m guessing the third and final book too? And yes, I have finished the book, and yes, I went GAAAAHhhh….. And yes, I immediately turned on my computer to download the second book. And yes, I checked to see if Overdrive has the third book, and unfortunately, the answer is no. So just to be safe and sane, I checked my physical library and woohoo! It’s available. A trip to the library it is then!