The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness The main thing I gained from reading The Knife of Never Letting Go? Knowledge of how it feels to read a single, more than 400 page chase scene. Sure, there are additional elements to this story. There is a coming of age tale since the protagonist Todd will become a man in a month’s time at the novel’s beginning. It’s a dystopia, complete with a deranged religious man, a tyrannical mayor, a gendered society, and a way of monitoring individuals’ thoughts through Noise, a virus that publicizes the thoughts of every male in the New World. We’ve got some light sci-fi going on: humanoid aliens inhabit the planet and Viola, the secondary protagonist, has crashed her spaceship onto New World. There’s even a minor mystery as Todd seeks to discover the true circumstances behind the disappearance of all women in Prentisstown and the reason why he is being hunted so feverishly after fleeing his town. But despite all these components, The Knife of Never Letting Go boils down to one thing: a sprawling, epic chase scene. Which gets repetitive quickly. Very quickly. Ness writes in first person from Todd’s perspective, but he cheats with his narrative technique. When Todd finds out crucial answers to the mystery of Prentisstown, they are not shared with the reader. Nearly halfway through this novel, I still had zero answers to the questions that had been introduced in chapter one. To me, this is plainly bad storytelling. I like when authors keep certain secrets and twists guarded, but they have to give me something. Don’t trick me into reading 90% of the book before revealing everything at once and then creating tons of new questions that, most likely, won’t be answered until 90% through the sequel. My next biggest complaint concerned the prose, which is full of improper grammar and spelling to emphasize Todd’s lack of education. This technique can be employed splendidly (Lenny's voice in Steinbeck’s [b:Of Mice and Men|890|Of Mice and Men|John Steinbeck||40283] comes to mind), but with Todd, who is an annoying fourteen year old, it bothered me. It just sounded so juvenile. For example, Todd uses the term “effing” a lot and frequently follows it up by saying, “But I didn’t say effing, I said the actual word…” and you can almost see the freaking winky face behind it. Ha. Ha. At times, the writing reminded me more of verse than prose, since it was written with many short, fragmented sentences indented as individual lines. This style further weakened the writing by rendering it even more simplistic and immature. A stronger point is the development of themes and motifs, especially through the eponymous “knife” and its role in killing. During this grandiose chase scene, Ness asks: does killing change you? does a person ever have the right to take another person’s life? These questions are compelling and relevant. 33 US states still offer death penalty as a sentence in cases of homicide. US soldiers go to war and daily kill individuals identified as threats. Is this okay? I love pondering over this philosophical question, but my god, in The Knife of Never Letting Go, I didn’t care that Todd was suffering from existential qualms about killing two of the main villains chasing after him. It was vexatious and repetitive. It’s one thing to read a nearly 500 page chase scene; it’s another to have the same two chasers turn up again and again to serve as some featherweight obstacle that Todd and Viola will undoubtedly overcome by maiming them nearly mortally to prevent any further pursuit yet OF COURSE the chasers will somehow reappear yet again. Instead of wondering about the rightness and nature of killing, all I could think after like the fifth reappearance of these chasers was “KILL THEM TODD, KILL THEM.” Put me out of my misery! There are also interesting parallels between the beliefs of some Prentisstown men and super hardcore evangelist Christian beliefs toward women, but this theme was mostly unexplored and lost in the muddle. Basically, I didn’t really enjoy The Knife of Never Letting Go because the parts I found most interesting—the question of killing, the mysteries of the Noise, New World, and Prentisstown, the curious state of women in this society—were ignored in favor of action. If a fast-paced book focused on a wild pursuit of two kids by crazy men sounds like something you might enjoy, then certainly read this book. But if you like your books that feature dystopic secrets and a lot of walking to a destination to pack some emotional resonance (à la Cormac McCarthy’s [b:The Road|6288|The Road|Cormac McCarthy||3355573]), you may find this novel disappointing.