Friday, October 16, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Is it as Good as the Hype??

And that certainly is a fair question to ask. For this seems to be the "year of the Hype". At least for me. I've been enthralled by both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Entranced by The Graveyard Book. Underwhelmed by the first few Fablehaven books. And blown away by the awesomeness of Looking for Alaska. And since I always seem to be just one step behind everyone else, I find myself reading books that have already gone viral across the net. And as such, I always brace myself for disappointment. I always fear that a book that has been toted by everyone and their brother will leave me with just a so-so feeling. And I HATE disappoint. I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this review, but I can tell you this: The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking, Book One by Patrick Ness (496 pgs, Candlewick, 2008) most certainly did NOT disappoint! I'm using this book as a selection for both the RIP IV Challenge and the YA Dystopian Challenge.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything.

Todd Hewitt is a twelve-year-old boy living in Prentisstown in the New World. The New World is a another planet that was settled years ago by people who wanted a simpler way of life. But when they reached the New World, they encountered an alien race known as the Spackle. And there was war. A war in which a germ was released that caused the "noise". This germ not only killed all the women in the New World, but most of the men. Only the men of Prentisstown are left. And they have the "Noise" disease. They can hear each others thoughts, or noise as its called. And although this sounds pretty cool in theory, being able to read eveyone's thoughts makes for a big jumbled mess most of the time. So many thoughts coming at you in all directions is enough to drive a person crazy. But this is the only world Todd has ever known.

Both his mother and father died during the war. Todd lives with friends of his mother's, Ben and Cillian, and his dog, Manchee. Prentisstown is the only settlement left from when the settlers arrived on the New World. But just 30 days before Todd's 13th birthday (the one that means he's a "Man"), something happens on his walk through the swamp. Something that causes him to go on the run from everyone and everything he has ever known. And, boy is his world turned upside down!

That's about all I can say about this book without giving away any part of the plot. And I think going in blind is the best possible way to read this book. Now...on to what *I* thought of it:

I had to give myself a day or two's time to let the story sink in before I could write this review. Is it at all possible to love a book and hate the same book all at once? Because if it is, that's how I feel about it! I know I read a couple of reviews that said this could possibly be a new favorite of all time. I'm not going to go that far. No way this book is going on the list past The Stand or To Kill a Mockingbird. I may change my mind when I'm done reading the Trilogy. But as a stand alone book, not a chance. I need closure in my life. I really HATE when a book leaves you with a huge cliff-hanger ending. And that is exactly what Ness does at the end of this one.

Reading The Knife of Never Letting Go is like riding on a roller coaster. It starts off at a real nice pace, then BAM! It kicks into high gear and doesn't stop until the final page. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. But there is no chance to catch your breath. It is so intense that you can almost feel your heart beating at times. It is an emotional read. It will absolutely tear at your heart-strings. And it is very violent and extremely graphic.

And there is another thing: I actually felt physically exhausted when I had finished reading this book. I can not remember the last time that happened to me. There is at least one scene in the book that left me so drained, I could barely get out of my chair. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, my heart ripped from my chest and stomped on. I was so angry I wanted to throw the book out the door! And yet, I picked it up again and continued reading.

All of the things I've said sound really negative. And I don't mean it exactly like that. Those are a few of the reasons I said I hated this book. Some of the reasons I loved the book: the wonderful characters. Characters that were written so well, I could picture them vividly in my head. Characters that were so real to me I cried and screamed when something happened to them (and trust me, there is a LOT that happens). Protagonists so human that it's impossible not to completely empathize with them. A dog that could possibly be the greatest character ever written. (I now see why I could never be a cat person. Dogs are just too loyal and sweet!) And a villain that was so evil, it made me see red each time I even stumbled across his name.

There is also a fantastic story to go along with the great characters. It is dystopian in nature, which I love anyway. But the world Ness created is just incredible. The whole concept of the "noise" is unique. You would think it would be impossible to keep secrets in a world where everyone can read each others minds, but in fact, this world has MORE secrets than anywhere I know! And it's written in such a way that it is completely believable. Take this quote:
"Cuz knowledge is dangerous," he says, as serious as I've ever seen him and when I look into his Noise to see what he's hiding, it roars up and slaps me back.

But don't kid yourself. This is not a fun, light read. There is a stab-you-through-the-heart intensity that is hard to like. It is gritty and violent. And sometimes you are so overwhelmed with sadness that you physically ache. But if the sign of a good book is the fact that the author has made you feel something, then this is a great book because it engulfs you with FEELING. Even with the portions of the book that I hated, I'm still giving it a 100% 5 star rating. It was that good. Will it ever surpass my favorite books? Probably not. But I do reserve the right to revisit the topic when I complete the trilogy! 5/5

25 comments:

Nymeth said...

Your first paragraph kind of explains why I hate the word "hype" :P Maybe it's also because in the music communities where I used to hang out it was always used so dismissively, but whatever the reason, "hype" makes me thing of social pressure to be all over the next "big thing", the new, cool, passing fad, as opposed to people showing genuine enthusiasm for something they love. And I just hate that kind of pressure - it tends to drive me away from things to be honest. Anyway, I'm really glad you loved it, Stephanie! And I know just what you mean about feeling exhausted by the end!

Stephanie said...

Nymeth - Since I don't buy a lot of books anymore, I seem to be reading them later. I'm always afraid of expecting too much. And being let down. I HATE when that happens. So many people have been raving about this book lately, that I was afraid it would happen again. Thankful, it was a great book. Still hated chunks of it. But a great book it was!

Amanda said...

So here's my thing: after I finished this book, I also felt completely and totally exhausted. I felt like this was less of a roller coaster and more like a huge car chase scene. I wanted to stop reading and couldn't. That scene that hit you so badly - I didn't feel it because I didn't like that particular character, so in the end i just felt tired, and betrayed by the ending. I thought I was really looking forward to the sequel, but 4 months later when I got my hands on it, I just wasn't interested i nreading it. the whole thing turned out kind of meh for me. I gave it 3 stars. I think in order ot enjoy this book, you really have to connect to that one character I couldn't connect to.

Stephanie said...

Amanda - I think you are probably right. I read your review and I understand why you didn't. For me, he was the heart of the story. But I can definitely see being betrayed by the end. I usually HATE books that end like that. I'm all for trilogies and such. But that was just a wicked ending. I need more closure.

Tia said...

This book has been on my to-read list, and your review was great - but also made me scared to read it! I know I'd love it once I started, but I hate to think how emotionally psyched up I'd get about it. At least I know to save this for a weekend when I'm not already overwhelmed.

Vasilly said...

This is on my TBR list. You wrote such a great review I feel like reading it now.

Kailana said...

I hate the word 'hype' too. Sometimes I expect great things and am disappointed, or something I just don't understand the hype at all! That's why I am glad some books I beat to the hype stage... Others, I wait and read after the hype has died down a bit. :)

I did like this book, though. Still haven't reviewed it, but that is nothing new!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review! I keep seeing this book everywhere, and yet, I haven't figured out if I want to read it yet. I know I'll give it a try at some point though!

I agree that I don't love the "hype" either. Lately there seems the hype seems to be about hype, too! It's not a great book unless it's The New Twilight! The New Harry Potter! And although said hype made me discover some awesome books, I also feel that sometimes greater books are being ignored in the process because they don't follow the rules of what's "in". That's the way it is, I guess!

Trish said...

I was kind of holding my breath at the beginning of your review as I JUST bought this one on Debi, Nymeth, and Chris's recommendation. I'm THRILLED that loved this one--maybe I'll try to get to it during the 'thon.

And if you're a step behind the hype, I'm two steps. I still have Hunger Games and Catching Fire in my pile but hope to get to them during the 'thon. :)

Heather said...

"There is at least one scene in the book that left me so drained, I could barely get out of my chair. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, my heart ripped from my chest and stomped on. I was so angry I wanted to throw the book out the door! And yet, I picked it up again and continued reading. "

I know what you are taking about I felt EXACTLY the same way!

Hype can be a bad thing, but every once in awhile, it's completely warranted. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and that you weren't disappointed!

Bookfool said...

Oh, yay, I'm so glad to hear that because I was actually bracing myself when you started talking about hype and viral books. I actually bought this book, today. I just read your first paragraph and skipped to the end, so I'm also nicely forewarned that my heart's going to be shredded. Okay. I can handle it. Real life punched us in the gut, yesterday, so it's hard to think I'll have any problem with fiction at the moment. I hope you're having a fabulous weekend, Stephanie!

Also, could you write to me at bookfoolery at yahoo dot com if you have time, please? I have something to ask you.

Chris said...

YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYayyyyy!!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it Steph!! Well, I don't quite know if "enjoy" is the word, but you know what I mean. Wasn't "that part" just the saddest thing ever? I wanted to throw the damn book across the room too! In fact, I think I may have. I think I blanked that period of my life out of my head :/ This one really did exhaust me. But at the same time, I never wanted it to end. I think I'm going to be reading The Ask and The Answer soon!

Bart's Bookshelf said...

Isn't this such a fantastic book?! So glad you liked it. However if you found this one draining just wait until you read book two. Just saying. :)

(It is even better though if that's a help!)

Andi said...

Yay! This one is on my hold list at the library. Can't wait to get my hands on it and see what all the fuss (and fury) is about!

Debi said...

I hear you--I'm always behind, too. Always. What are you gonna do though, huh?

I'm so glad you ended up liking this one, Stephanie. I would have bet money that you would, of course, because I've yet to run across a book you loved that I didn't. :D (Wonder if that will change when I finally get around to reading Tender Morsels.) Anyway, I just started TAATA last night...so far, so very, very good.

Janssen said...

I'm reading this one right now and struggling a little to get really hooked. What's my problem?!

samantha.1020 said...

I'm going to admit to skimming this review as I really, really want to read this book. You are right though, there is a TON of hype surrounding it which is why I'm waiting a bit before I read it. And why I am skimming the reviews :)

Sneakers hobbies said...
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Aarti said...

Gosh, this book has gotten excellent reviews ("hype," I guess!) everywhere. It's on my Amazon wish list, but now I'm wondering if I should just purchase it and be my own wish granter :-)

Trish said...

Hey Hon...I sent you an email, did you get it? You were the winner for The Lace Reader and I'd love to mail it out to you this week--just need your address.

S. Krishna said...

Wow, wow, wow. I put this book on hold at the library after reading your review.

celi.a said...

I think you just said everything I felt about this book. Literally. You put it all on the page, and I felt you on every single point. The drained feeling, the urge to throw the book across the room, the torn heart-strings, etc. ALL OF IT. Have you been inside my head?! Haha.
I know it's just this book in general, and Ness' expertise specifically. Can't believe I became so immersed...and not sure I'm brave enough to read the next one...
But I HAVE to know how it ends...

Great, great review. Thanks for sharing!

Clover said...

I'm glad you liked this book. It's definately one of my favourites. I know exactly what you mean when you said you were exhausted at the end of it, it is quite the emotional read. Read The Ask and the Answer recently and thankfully it isn't quite as intense in the same way!

katrina said...

I loved this book, all of it! And yes there were places where I wanted it to stop, I could see something bad was going to happen that I wasn't going to like but I had to keep on.
Can't wait to get my hands on the next one

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