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Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness


“Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read other people’s minds? When you first think about it, the idea sounds like a dream come true. After all, it’s a superpower that many have glorified since the creation of the comic book. But what if this special power couldn’t be turned off? Hearing EVERYONE’s exact thoughts during EVERY second of the day would be excruciatingly loud and most likely unbearable for most. After all, some things are better left off unknown, right?


This is the life of every man in Prentisstown, the key setting in the book, The Knife of Never Letting Go. Fast forward through time, and you’ll land in New World, a planet similar to Earth that human settlers looking for a fresh start have inhabited. Unfortunately, with new lives and surroundings come the Spackle, a vicious alien species on the planet that sets a life-threatening germ loose in an attempt to kill off the settlers. Chaos breaks out, and by the time everything clears up, thousands of males, every female that ever set foot on New World and all the Spackle are wiped out. All that’s left are a handful of men in a colony named Prentisstown as well and the aftermath of the germ that allowed everyone to hear one another’s thoughts 24/7, nicknamed the Noise.

Long story short, privacy is nothing more than history in New World.

Todd is the youngest of all the people in Prentisstown. In exactly one month, he will turn 13, the sacred age that promotes you to manhood in New World. Todd’s eagerness to become a man grows with every passing minute, where he’ll be able to fit in with the rest of his small society and be granted his ultimate birthday gift - freedom. However, with the luck of his, Todd uncovers something that should’ve been nonexistent: silence in the Noise. His discovery sends pandemonium in the town, forcing him to flee from Prentisstown. Before long, Todd finds himself running away from the people and the life that he’d grown up with. Soon, he learns though, of the truths in New World. Truths in a place where secrets should’ve been impossible to keep.

I found this book horribly fascinating. The author, Patrick Ness, keeps the writing in the form of Todd’s dialect, which can convince readers that they really are in the protagonist’s head (kind of as if we were infected by the germ as well). Ness explores the concept of how maturity is based off of your mentality and not by numbers, as Todd had so deeply bought into. We learn along with Todd the idea of hope, the significance of keeping secrets and how a society so seemingly innocent can turn out to be a giant group of manipulation.

There is no other way to put this book than to say that it was startling. Ness holds nothing back and treats his audience with every single detail of his universe that he has created. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. Quick tip, you may want to have a cup of coffee by your side when you read this, because there’s a 90% chance that you’ll be pulling an all-nighter to get to the last page.  


Ottawa Public Library’s Teen Bloggers in Residence are fantastic teen volunteer writers from across the city. They blog about their favourite teen reads and authors, and get writing assignments to cover special teen events happening at the library. Their residency rotates throughout the year. Call-outs for upcoming terms are made through the Teen Blog in May/June, September/October and January/February.