Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Noise and Loud Silence - Why you should read The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

To be fair, let me just say that I went into "The Knife of Never Letting Go" with high hopes. I was profoundly excited when I saw the author's name - Patrick Ness, and thought him to be the author of my favorite children's book of all time, a hardcover picture book called "Sam, Bangs & Moonshine." Sam, Bangs & Moonshine is a 25 page story that talks about a little girl who can't decipher whats real, from what she imagines. Her dad is a fisherman who calls her stories "moonshine." Sam eventually comes to the realization that she can't always be pretending that her cat is talking, or that her dead mother is a mermaid, or that she has a pet kangaroo, and its all very touching and adorable. The illustrations are great, too.
So imagine my surprise, after having read the entirety of this novel, (no small feat, mind you - its a massive 496 pages!,) thinking that Patrick Ness is this incredible, maleable, amazingly dual writer, who can illustrate and write amazingly creative and cute children's books, and also write a thickly symbolic and moving dystopian novel for young adults, when I find out that Patrick Ness didn't actually write my beloved "Sam, Bangs and Moonshine" - and that he's a basically unknown first time author, and Eveline Ness wrote "Sam, Bangs and Moonshine!" They are two totally different people! Regardless of my mix-up, I'd like to hope that my fondness for an author with a similar name did not affect my opinion of Patrick Ness's "The Knife of Never Letting Go." Which was incredible. I would highly recommend this book to any adult, or young adult.
The book is about a young boy named Todd, who lives in a town called Prentisstown - an isolated villiage that's full of only men. After an attack from the "Spackles," all women have been eliminated due to a spreading disease, that also gives men the ability to read each other's thoughts, and animals the ability to communicate with humans. Because there are no women, the men of Prentisstown are a dying race. And I love me some dystopian imagery.
The never-ceasing sound that results from everyone's wide open brains is referred to as "Noise," and is by far, one of the most unique ideas to enter Young Adult literature since Philip Pullman's "Daemons." The portrayal of "Noise" is amazing. The font, the font size, the tone, all changes with the flow of the Noise that Todd is hearing. It's during a walk through the woods that Todd stops hearing Noise, and first meets Silence. And Viola - a girl. The story develops from this point on, and I really, really, don't want to ruin it for you. But the story is gutwrenching. I cried, like five times, reading this book.
The following is a post from a fellow blogger who enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go as much as I did. She words how she feels about Todd's emotions towards women.

"And therefore without Noise their thoughts can’t possibly be guessed, which makes them seem dangerous, and so they are feared, and so it's decided that they must be eliminated. And this is why my favourite scene in the book is when Todd realizes that, Noise or no Noise, boy or girl, he knows Viola. They can communicate.
I can read it.
I can read her.
Cuz she’s thinking about how her own parents also came here with hope like my ma. She’s wondering if the hope at the end of our hope is just as false as the one that was at the end of my ma’s. And she;s taking the words of my ma and putting them into the mouths of her own ma and pa and hearing them say that they love her and they miss her and they wish her the world. And she’s taking the song of my pa and she’s weaving it into everything else till it becomes a sad thing all her own.
And it hurts her, but it’s an okay hurt, but it hurts still, but it’s good, but it hurts.
She hurts.
I know all this.
I know it’s true.
Cuz I can read her.
I can read her Noise even tho she ain’t got none.
I know who she is.
I know Viola Eade.
It’s a lovely scene, and it’s a brilliant book.
" ( This blogger's poing of view is dead on. The language of the book is so unique and so beautiful, its hard to believe its written in a 1st person southern dialect - something that usually ends up being clumsy, forced and awkward to read.
Bottom line, you should read this book. And you should tell all the teenagers (and adults) that you know that they should read it too. Ness's writing is impressive, to say the least. His voice is one that speaks to all of us, as outsiders, as loners, and as ones who have a hard time understanding those around us - even if we can read their thoughts.

The book is the first in a series of three, and the other one isn't even out yet, so it'll definitely be added to my bookshelf come Fall.

As a warning, the book is pretty violent, and its pretty intense. Its not for the faint of heart. (There is at least one animal murder and one throat stabbing and lots of other stabbings, and some serious heavy bludgeoning with lots of blood.) I would say about 12+ for this book, as a rough estimate.


Ms. Edukated said...

Go figure that a book about a town full of men would be violent. The story sounds interesting and appears to have the same concept as a movie for which I do not know the name. In the movie, women of the world have become infertile and are not having children. Out of the blue a woman becomes pregnant and she must keep her pregnancy a secret so that her child is not taken away from her. The concepts are similar because something other than what is believed to exist, exists.

Caitlin Strandquist said...

The movie you're thinking of is also a book - its called Children of Men. There were definitely some similar concepts going on in both books.