Todd Hewitt is less than a month away from becoming a man. He’s in a bad mood. No man should have to go off into the swamp to pick swamp apples when his thirteenth birthday is that close. That’s boy’s work. To make matters worse his birthday gift from Ben who takes care of him is a dog named Manchee that he never wanted. What he really wants is the knife that Ben has always carried with him since Todd can remember.
Todd’s been raised on the planet of New World in Prentisstown. His Pa died before he was born and his Ma sometime after. In fact all of the women in Prentisstown are gone. They died from the “Noise”, or at least that’s what they’ve told Todd. It’s a strange place New World. One man can hear another man’s thoughts. They can even hear the thoughts of animals. Manchee is about to drive Todd crazy. As he says in the first line of the book: “THE FIRST THING you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dog’s don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.”
But Todd’s about to learn what they mean by ‘man’s best friend’. Todd’s the last boy left in Prentisstown and the men who’ve raised him (Ben and Cillian) want him as far away as possible before he’s made to go through his rite of passage. It’s meant to take a part of Todd’s soul and bind him to an evil plan that’s been working since he was born.
Todd escapes Prentisstown, and on his way finds the only girl he’s ever seen in person hiding in the swamps. Their trying to make it to Haven where they’ll both be safe from the men of Prentisstown who won’t ever let them go.
Patrick Ness has created a story based on the old American frontier, with characters both good and evil talking in flawless nineteenth century American accents. Mr. Ness is one of those rare writers who writes male and female characters equally well; each has a heartbeat of their own, with souls and silences that are as effecting as if they stood in the room with you.
The story’s actions are so engaging that there are times when the reader may have to put the book down for five minutes to breathe. There is no shortage of villains in this book, but one in particular, a zealous and maniacal preacher named Aaron made this reader put the book down every time he managed to reappear in the story. He’s so evil a reader of “The Knife of Never Letting Go” will have to take a small break to prepare themselves for the scene to come. There’s a death of one character that’s as devistating as The Lord of the Rings’ character of Gandalf’s fall into the shadow.
Sometimes when we open a book, we know a book is going to be a smash hit. And so it was when I opened “The Knife of Never Letting Go”. The title alone cuts into the imagination. The story itself will cut you into pieces. At Yaroos, it’s always a “Eureka!” moment when we’re able to give a book five stars, calling our colleagues to announce we’ve found one. We give “The Knife of Never Letting Go” five stars and urge you to rush right out and get a copy. Get it in hardback. You’ll want this one as a reading trophy.