“The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness

Todd has grown up in Prentisstown – a town on New World, where the early settlers have been exposed to an alien germ which has caused the thoughts of all men to be audible and has killed off the women. The “Noise” is everywhere, and it’s not just the men, but the animals have been infected too. But even this doesn’t stop the town men keeping secrets, especially from the boys. And when Todd is just one month away from becoming a man, these secrets start a chain of events and Todd must flee from everything and everyone he knows …

This book was excellent. The story expands from starting with the small scale of the farm in Prentisstown, gradually revealing the wider landscape of New World and in parallel Todd’s character expands as the experiences force him to develop from boy to man, and because of the first person narrative, the reader learns at the same time as Todd what all the secrets are, and begins to understand what has happened in this broken society.

There is no doubt that violence, rage and corruption of power play a big part in making this story seem very real, but it is the possibilities of what might be at the end of the quest that keep it from spiralling into a nightmarish, dystopian tale, and give the reader a sense of hope and optimism rather than despair.

The author has chosen to write Todd’s speech and thoughts in dialect, so there is some unusual spelling and grammar used, but it is written very much as it would be spoken, so I never felt that it jarred or took me out of the story, more that it added to the feeling of authenticity.

I don’t want to say too much about the other characters because it might give away too much, too early, but the story and the characters affected me, and I don’t mind admitting I shed a few tears at various points in the story, as I could feel the heartbreaking emotions that simple words on a page can evoke.

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