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. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
So just about every review I've read of this book has highly praised it and declared what an amazing story it is. I, on the other hand, found very little that I enjoyed about it. I want to state right off the bat, that doesn't mean I'm saying this is a bad book. I just found it incredibly difficult to get through.
I'm going to start with what I liked about The Knife of Never Letting Go. The idea of The Noise I thought was so creative and like nothing I've ever encountered in a dystopia before. It's like Patrick Ness took the concept of "Big Brother" from Orwell's 1984 and amped it up tenfold. Despite the fact that I liked the concept, its execution I thought was extremely painful to get through. Virtually nothing about the New World's secrets is unearthed until the very end of the story which makes you feel like you're trudging through the plot to get to the Big Reveal at the end. For me, that was torturous. I like the plot to reveal itself bit by bit throughout the story rather than being bombarded with the whole shebang at the end.
The only thing that waiting till the end had going for it was that it kept me from abandoning the book entirely because I was determined to learn what the Big Secret was. And then once I did learn all the secrets by the end, they seemed to be too complicated for me to feel like this was a truly enlightening moment in the story. It's not like I didn't understand the secrets, but they just took my brain too long to process for me to have that moment where my eyes bug out and am amazed at what has just been revealed.
At the core of the story however, what really prevented me from enjoying it was how hopeless the whole situation felt. There is virtually NO hope to cling to whatsoever in this story. Most dystopias I've read and enjoyed had a modicum of hope to cling to, however small it may have been. While listening to the audiobook of The Knife of Never Letting Go, I felt incredibly depressed. Part of it I think was because I didn't have much faith in the main character. Yes, he was an inherently good person, but he didn't have much oomph to him. Maybe it was his ignorance that frustrated me. And it's not like that was his fault, but I just felt so frustrated to be going on this journey with him and not knowing ANYTHING about the secrets of Prentisstown.
The other thing that bothered me was the audio presentation. I did not buy Nick Podehl's performance of Todd in the slightest. What Nick sounded like to me was a refined, college educated man trying way too hard to sound like a young, illiterate 13-year-old boy and yet it was also half-hearted at the same time. Strangely enough though, I did enjoy his characterization of Todd's dog, Manchee. That was definitely the best characterization in the whole performance and the only one that felt authentic.
I know there were lots of people who loved this book and who sing its praises to the moon and back. I was just not one of those people. That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. I think it has a great deal of literary merit and there are so many amazing talking points that it would be a perfect choice for a book club or literature circle.
Would recommend to mature readers who like a challenge and can handle the slow, torturously secretive plot.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Audiobook narrator: Nick Podehl
Original Publish Date: May 5, 2008
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 55 minutes
Audience: Young Adult