The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Series #1)

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Series #1)

4.4 280
by Patrick Ness

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Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee

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Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sets a high standard in an already crowded fantasy fiction genre."
— THE INDEPENDENT (U.K.) — Independent, The (UK)

Chased by a madman preacher and possibly the rest of his townsfolk as well, young Todd Hewitt flees his settlement on a planet where war with the natives has killed all the women and infected the men with a germ that broadcasts their thoughts aloud for all to hear. This cacophonous thought-cloud is known as Noise and is rendered with startling effectiveness on the page. The first of many secrets is revealed when Todd discovers an unsettling hole in the Noise, and quickly realizes that he lives in a much different world than the one he thought he did. Some of the central conceits of the drama can be hard to swallow, but the pure inventiveness and excitement of the telling more than make up for it. Narrated in a sort of pidgin English with crack dramatic and comic timing by Todd and featuring one of the finest talking-dog characters anywhere, this troubling, unforgettable opener to the Chaos Walking trilogy is a penetrating look at the ways in which we reveal ourselves to one another, and what it takes to be a man in a society gone horribly wrong. The cliffhanger ending is as effective as a shot to the gut.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
What if everyone could hear your every thought—and you could hear theirs? On the planet of New World, all the agrarian settlers are besieged by this endless "Noise," making it almost impossible to keep a secret. Todd is the only boy in a town of men, and he's about to undergo a mysterious initiation rite. He believes all the women on the planet are dead, but when he comes upon a girl in the woods, everything abruptly changes. Todd, his faithful dog (whose thoughts can also be heard), and the girl, Viola, go on the run, pursued by a grim army of townsmen, and discover there's much more to New World than Todd had ever expected. This riveting SF thriller is action-packed, with edge-of-your-seat chase scenes, a monstrous villain who just won't die, and moments of both anguish and triumph. Todd must deal with learning the surprising truth about his world while wrestling with moral dilemmas: is he capable of killing? Emotionally intense, violent at times, this haunting page-turner may be awkwardly named, but it's a great read. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in town to become a man. The Noise germ infected the settlement of Prentisstown, killing all the women and allowing all the men to hear each other's thoughts as well as the thoughts of animals. After revealing a horrible secret, Todd's guardians send him away from town with a journal written by Todd's mother before she died. With only his dog Manchee for company, Todd flees the settlement, pursued by all the men in town. During his flight, Todd meets the first female he has ever seen, Viola, who has just landed on the planet. Together, they find their way to various oases of safety, but cannot ever stay long because of their hunters. As Todd talks to other people and reads his mother's journals, he discovers the true nature of Prentisstown. It is not until the final, horrifying confrontation that he realizes why they will not stop until they find him. This brilliant post-apocalyptic novel is gritty and exciting. The way the Noise is handled, from Manchee's simple thoughts to the chaos in Prentisstown is particularly well done, as are Todd's misspellings and grammatical mistakes within the text of the book (just enough to give us a sense of realism to Todd's narrative, but not too many to be distracting). An excellent and gripping beginning to the "Chaos Walking" series. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck
VOYA - Angelica Delgado
Todd Hewitt is a boy inundated with information. Since an unfortunate encounter with germ warfare killed the women in Prentisstown and left the men and other animals unable to conceal their thoughts from each other, life has been somewhat depressing. Students cannot avoid cheating on tests so they stop going to school. The townsmen think wistfully of their wives and maliciously of one another. Preacher Aaron judges with an iron fist and punishes anyone who merely thinks a naughty word. When boys become men on their thirteenth birthday, they become secretive and sad. A month from turning thirteen, Todd and his pesky dog, Manchee, find something in the swamp that triggers a cascade of tragic events, leaving Todd and Manchee to flee the only home they know with the men of Prentisstown hot on their trails. Ness's first contribution to young adult literature is mesmerizing yet ultimately disappointing. His skillfully structured narrative creates an elegant mixture of action, dialogue, and dark, dystopian pathos. The most evocative scenes involve Todd and his steadfast pooch, Manchee. The novel unfortunately uses hackneyed and irritating plot devices such as seemingly immortal villains, an nber-religious villain, and repeatedly delayed revelations that in turn prolong the hero's struggle. Creepy Preacher Aaron, in particular, survives attacks by swamp animals and a dog and many bouts with a very sharp knife, all while delivering fervent prophetic statements. Steer this one to mature fans of Patrick Carman's House of Power series who want something darker and better written. Reviewer: Angelica Delgado
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Todd Hewitt lives in a world in which all women are dead, and the thoughts of men and animals are constantly audible as Noise. Graphically represented by a set of scratchy fonts and sentence fragments that run into and over each other, Noise is an oppressive chaos of words, images, and sounds that makes human company exhausting and no thought truly private. The history of these peculiar circumstances unfolds over the course of the novel, but Ness's basic world-building is so immediately successful that readers, too, will be shocked when Todd and his dog, Manchee, first notice a silence in the Noise. Realizing that he must keep the silence secret from the town leaders, he runs away, and his terrified flight with an army in pursuit makes up the backbone of the plot. The emotional, physical, and intellectual drama is well crafted and relentless. Todd, who narrates in a vulnerable and stylized voice, is a sympathetic character who nevertheless makes a few wrenching mistakes. Manchee and Aaron, a zealot preacher, function both as characters and as symbols. Tension, suspense, and the regular bombardment of Noise are palpable throughout, mitigated by occasional moments of welcome humor. The cliff-hanger ending is unexpected and unsatisfying, but the book is still a pleasure for sophisticated readers comfortable with the length and the bleak, literary tone.-Megan Honig, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
Todd Hewitt has never known quiet. Growing up on an alien planet where thoughts are broadcast and animals speak, 12-year-old Todd is the last boy in a town of men. He quickly goes from outcast to target after finding two surprises in Prentisstown's swamp: a wrecked colony spaceship and Viola, the first girl he has ever seen. In fleeing Prentisstown, Todd and Viola discover its ugly history and terrifying plans. Uneven pacing and an unbelievable premise hobble this work, Ness's first attempt at YA fiction. Events pile up and then freeze while Todd addresses an emotional crisis. Viola's page presence is so weak as to be forgettable, though Manchee, Todd's loyal dog, will grow on readers as the narrative progresses. Ness's attempt to develop Todd's character by including colloquialisms in nearly every aspect of the narrative only succeeds in driving readers out of the tale. Attempting to address adolescent angst, information overload and war, Ness ends up delivering merely noise. (Science fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Chaos Walking Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

THE FIRST THING you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

"Need a poo, Todd."

"Shut up, Manchee."

"Poo. Poo, Todd."

"I said shut it."

We’re walking across the wild fields southeast of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on toward the swamp. Ben’s sent me to pick him some swamp apples and he’s made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss’s good side and so suddenly here’s this brand-new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn’t have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here’s a brand-new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don’t want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he’s got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?

"Poo," Manchee barks quietly to himself. "Poo, poo, poo."

"Just have yer stupid poo and quit yapping about it."

I take a switch of grass from beside the trail and I swat after him with it. I don’t reach him, I don’t mean to reach him, but he just laughs his little barking laugh and carries on down the trail. I follow after him, switching the switch against the grass on either side, squinting from the sun, trying not to think about nothing at all.

We don’t need apples from the swamp, truth be told. Ben can buy them at Mr. Phelps’s store if he really wants them. Also true: going to the swamp to pick a few apples is not a job for a man cuz men are never allowed to be so idle. Now, I won’t officially become a man for thirty more days. I’ve lived twelve years of thirteen long months each and another twelve months besides, all of which living means I’m still one month away from the big birthday. The plans are being planned, the preparayshuns prepared, it will be a party, I guess, tho I’m starting to get some strange pictures about it, all dark and too bright at the same time, but neverthelessI will become a man and picking apples in the swamp is not a job for a man or even an almost-man.

But Ben knows he can ask me to go and he knows I’ll say yes to going because the swamp is the only place anywhere near Prentisstown where you can have half a break from all the Noise that men spill outta theirselves, all their clamor and clatter that never lets up, even when they sleep, men and the thoughts they don’t know they think even when everyone can hear. Men and their Noise. I don’t know how they do it, how they stand each other.

Men are Noisy creachers.

"Squirrel!" Manchee shouts and off he goes, jumping off the trail, no matter how loud I yell after him, and off I have to go, too, across the (I look round to make sure I’m alone) goddam fields cuz Cillian’ll have a fit if Manchee falls down some goddam snake hole and of course it’ll be my own goddam fault even tho I never wanted the goddam dog in the goddam first place.

"Manchee! Get back here!"


I have to kick my way thru the grass, getting grublets stuck to my shoes. One smashes as I kick it off, leaving a green smear across my sneakers, which I know from experience ain’t coming out. "Manchee!" I rage.

"Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!"

He’s barking round the tree and the squirrel’s skittering back and forth on the tree trunk, taunting him. Come on, Whirler dog, says its Noise. Come on, come get, come on, come get. Whirler, Whirler, Whirler.

"Squirrel, Todd! Squirrel!"

Goddam, animals are stupid.

I grab Manchee by the collar and hit him hard across his back leg. "Ow, Todd? Ow?" I hit him again. And again. "Ow? Todd?"

"Come on," I say, my own Noise raging so loud I can barely hear myself think, which is something I’m about to regret, you watch.

Whirler boy, Whirler boy, thinks the squirrel at me. Come get, Whirler boy.

"You can eff off, too," I say, except I don’t say "eff ", I say what "eff" stands for.

And I really, really shoulda looked round again.


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