Friday, October 9, 2015

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker
Year: 2008
Pages: 479
Genre: Science Fiction
Themes: Adventure, Good vs. Evil
Age Range: 8th through 12th Grade

Summary: from Goodreads

Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.


This book is the first in a trilogy, and in the interest of full disclosure I will say that once you've read the first one, you are going to need to devour the entire series. It is such an interesting premise-reading about Todd and the men of Prentisstown made me realize just how awful it would be to hear everyone's thoughts, about everything, all the time, without any real ability to control the flow of information. The fact that he stayed sane long enough to run away is sort of amazing. Ness uses this phenomenon, and the gender differences in how it affects men and women on the planet these humans have colonized, as a way to explore some pretty dark ideas about sexism and patriarchy.

The men are definitely the villains in the first book, but as the series progresses it becomes much more sophisticated than that. By the end of the series there's the added perspective of one of the "aliens" (though really, if the humans are the colonizers, aren't they the aliens?), and Ness brings in issues of colonization and oppression of indigenous peoples as well. The story can certainly be read and enjoyed just as an adventure story, one where the forces of good an evil are caught in a life or death struggle for control, but there are deeper connections that can be made. This trilogy would make a good addition to a classroom library at the high school level, or for use in a book club setting. It is engaging enough that even reluctant readers will be drawn in. I am not the kind of person who reads an entire series in order, but this one I did. I couldn't wait to find out what happened to Todd and the people of this strange world.

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