The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1) by Patrick Ness
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 14, 2009
Genres: young adult, science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, romance
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I’ve been meaning to jump on the Chaos Walking bandwagon for the longest time; all my friends who have read this series have enjoyed it immensely. But I hadn’t made starting the series a priority; there always seemed to be other books needing to be read at the time.
Until I stumbled upon this book at the library. (FYI, my library is notorious [at least in my mind] for having every book in a series on the shelf except the first one, which is frustrating.) I took advantage of this lovely opportunity, and checked this book out.
I grew to really enjoy it, but it look at least the first 100 pages for me to warm up to the writing style —which is written in a “dialect,” of sorts—and Todd as a narrator. (Think Moira Young’s Blood Red Road, only with a slightly-younger male lead.) In addition to that, the first 100 pages or so don’t have a lot of action in them; it’s more build-up for the book.
Yet, once I got through the first fifth or fourth of the book, I pretty much devoured the rest. When it comes to torturing characters, Ness is relentless; Todd and Viola are always, always, always in danger, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment. And those “rest” moments are far and few in-between.
Todd frustrated me as a character; he seemed so needlessly stubborn, immature and simple-minded sometimes. And, while I understand that he’s still growing and changing—and while I applaud Ness for writing a main character who is clearly far from perfect—that doesn’t mean Todd didn’t get on my nerves sometimes.
Also, Viola’s initial period of silence around Todd lasted too long to read naturally, in my opinion. I think it would have come across as less of a way for the author to manufacture tension between the two of them. Overall, though, I really enjoyed the dynamics of their friendship, which was both entertaining and realistic. (Also, Manchee, you guys. Manchee is adorable.)
Beside these few complaints, though, I really enjoyed the book. It poses some great questions about hope and doing the right thing when the right thing is hard, as well what growing up and being a “real man” really means. There are some very powerful passages in this book that hit me pretty hard, not going to lie, but I’ll let you discover those on your own.
So, if you like writing in dialect and you’re willing to sit through about 100 pages of set-up for a very thrilling read (this comes in second with Illuminae as the most thrilling book I’ve ever read), give this a go. In addition to some fiery characters and a plot that’ll leave you breathless, this book also offers a very unique, pastoral world unlike what I’ve seen in YA sci-fi before.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is feral and wild in its beauty. It’s a darkly smart, well-written thrill-ride if you can appreciate its grit and its feistiness. (And if you can tolerate what will probably go down as one of the worst cliffhangers in the history of YA fiction. But I mean that in the absolute best way, I promise.) This book might leave you winded, but you’ll enjoy the ride; I promise.