The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

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I picked up this book after reading a powerful endorsement at Jenny’s Books. I have since seen many more rave reviews, so was expecting good things. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

< ?php echo amazon('1406320757','The Knife of Never Letting Go’); ?>  has one of the most original premises I’ve seen for a long time. The basic idea is that all the residents of Prentisstown have been affected by a virus which killed all the women and enabled the men to hear each other’s thoughts and those of the animals around them. The problem is that being able to hear every-one’s thoughts leads to a constant background noise which drove me mad – I guess this is the idea, but I found it very frustrating to read. 

The pace of the book is incredibly fast, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which encourages speed reading so much! The problem with this was that there was never any break from the action – you were swept along so quickly that was hard to build a picture of the characters or their surroundings.

I also found it quite confusing at times. It took a while for me to work out exactly what was happening – again I think this was due to the speed of the narrative. Nothing is really explained properly and so you have to grab snatches of information whenever it is dropped in the book.

The dialect in the book is annoying, but on top of that, I don’t understand why words like selecshun, expanshun and recognishun were mis-spelled – it just drove me mad!

Overall, I didn’t find anything good in this book, apart from the premise and I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy.

Most other people seem to love it though, so don’t take my word for it!



Is Patrick Ness one of your favourite authors?

Can you explain why this is so good?

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  1. Amanda says:

    I actually didn’t like this much either. It had a great premise, but i wanted a break. I rushed through it like a madwoman, and when it was over, I felt like I was recovering from an illness. I was in two minds about it, but when I started reading the second book several months later, I changed my mind after two chapters and gave it away.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, It is good to know I’m not alone – everyone else seems to love it! I’m surprised to hear that you started the second one, but am pleased that I’m not missing anything.

      1. Amanda says:

        Being away from it for a few months made it easier to start the 2nd. I was so hyped – everyone was talking about it – but once I started reading again, i realized I wasn’t interested.

  2. lilly says:

    Lol! I won’t take your word for it or at least I won’t blame you but I will not be reading this book anytime soon. I hate it when there is only action, action and nothing else but that in a book. I do love reading for the love or words, sentences, character development and plot all put nicely together.
    Also, I am not the best speller in the world but I do get ticked off when words are repeatedly misspelled or there is a pattern that leads me to think that both the author and editor thought they were correct when in fact they weren’t.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lilly, This book suffered from a major action overload, but some people love that sort of thing.
      The spelling wasn’t an editorial problem – it was a deliberate dialect thing which I didn’t like. It was weird comparing it to the dialect in The Island at the End of the World (which I loved) I’m not sure why one worked so well and the other grated on me. Perhaps someone with a better appreciation of these things will enlighten me?

  3. Megan says:

    Wow, I think yours is the first review that’s anything less than glowing about this book. It took me aback for a moment. LOL! Nonetheless, I’ll probably be giving this one a shot for myself at some point…I wonder who I’ll agree with?

    1. Jackie says:

      Megan, probably not with me! Amanda is the only other person I know who hasn’t loved it. I seem to have different taste in books to most people!

  4. Belle says:

    This type of premise isn’t really up my reading alley anyway, but I must admit, I’ve been pretty enticed by all the great reviews and had jotted this one on my list. But I find I really have a problem with a book that gallops too quickly – I just end up feeling so exhausted and then the reading’s not fun anymore.

    1. Jackie says:

      Belle, I thought the premise sounded really good, so it was a shame that it didn’t live up to expectations. It sounds as though this isn’t for you though – you would get exhausted!

  5. mee says:

    I admit I was enticed by all the raving reviews around blogosphere. But your post made me rethink to not follow the trend as I’m generally not fond of YA lit.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, It is sometimes frustrating to find that you don’t enjoy a book which everyone else raves about, but I’m learning that I won’t always love the same books as everyone else. I have my own unique taste!

  6. Jenners says:

    Oh…I hate when you read a book that everyone raves about and then you don’t like it. It always makes me feel like I’m missing something. I just had that experience with “Kane & Abel” by Jeffrey Archer … so many people loved it and I really did not.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I haven’t tried Kane and Abel – I’ll have to try that one day and see what I think!

  7. softdrink says:

    “Poo, Todd, poo.”

    I started it and never finished. And unfortunately, everytime I see mention of the book I think of the dog’s obsession with poo.

    1. Jackie says:

      softdrink, LOL! I thought the same thing. To be fair, dogs probably do have a poo obsession, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed reading about. I’m pleased to find someone else who agrees with me.

  8. She says:

    I understand what you mean about the dialect– I had problems with it as well. I ended up really liking it though. I’m sorry you did not get satisfacshun from reading it ;p

    1. Jackie says:

      She, LOL! No satisfacshun at all!

  9. Eva says:

    I didn’t love this one. I didn’t dislike it as much as you-probably because I broke out my hyper-reading, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with it. The misspelling of some ‘tion’ words and not others really annoyed me! And I won’t bother with the rest of the trilogy.

    I think that, while I enjoy new-to-me YA fiction, whenever I read new-to-me kids lit (vs my faves from childhood) it seems too simple, too let’s-knock-them-over-the-head-with-my-ideas. I’ve realised that right now, one of the things I value most in writing is subtlety. And when books don’t have that, I find it difficult to love them.

    1. Jackie says:

      Eva, I agree with you – I love subtlety too. This book was far too loud and fast for me. I have found YA to be very hit and miss – I think it takes a very skilled author to produce a simpler book which can also be enjoyed by adults.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for being so honest in your review. The premise is very intriguing to me but your review makes me a bit reticent to rush out to get a copy and read it. I think this one can stay on my TBR list but I won’t have it near the top!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, There isn’t much point having it in your TBR pile if it is never going to make it to the top! It might be worth reading the first few pages – it won’t take long for you to get a feel for it.

  11. Amy says:

    The premise is definitely unique but as soon as I read “…to hear eachother’s thoughts and those of the animals around them” I thought it sounds like utter chaos and a major headache. I thought of that movie with Jim Carey where he plays God and all that he hears all day is millions of voices. I’m also not one for books with non-stop action. I like a breather occasionally. Of course I am slightly interested in the book but in the way of picking it up in the bookstore and looking through it, maybe reading a chapter to see how crazy it makes me…!

    Thank you for your review, I really appreciate your honesty.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I haven’t seen that Jim Carey film, but I know the one you mean – I imagine that it is very similar. I think reading a few pages in a bookstore will give you a very clear idea of what it is like. I think I was annoyed by page two!

  12. Sandy says:

    Wow! Well, that is one thing that is good about you Jackie is we always know how you feel! I think the misspellings would drive me to drink, honestly. I mean, what does that add? I have enough books in my stack, so I will take your trusted word on this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I don’t like to leave people confused by my feelings! I’m sure the mispellings added something for some people, but it didn’t do anything for me.

  13. diane says:

    I’ve never read anything by this author, but I thiink I would get annoyed with it by what you described :)

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, you don’t have to take my word for it – just reading a few pages would give you a good idea of whether it is for you or not.

  14. Jenny says:

    Hahaha, oh dear. Sorry! I completely sympathize with your frustration on the idiotic misspellings of those words. They’re already pronounced that way! The dialect bugged me because it seemed fakey in a lot of ways, and superfluous. I think the reason I liked the book (in spite of its flaws – and I thought the second one managed better) was that Todd’s voice was very clear and seemed sincere to me. There are a lot of first-person-narrated books out there, and it’s very easy to sound sort of generic; but I thought Patrick Ness did an excellent job with Todd’s voice. (And Viola’s, in the second book.)

    As well, I think the emotional points of the book worked really well for me. I can see how if they didn’t resonate with you, the book wouldn’t be any good.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I’m sorry I didn’t like a book you recommended, but I’m afraid that although Todd’s voice came across, I didn’t really know him. The pace of the book didn’t slow down enough for me to appreciate him – it was just snatches here and there, which was never enough to satisfy me. I hope you enjoy the final book in the trilogy, but I’m sure it won’t be for me.

  15. Louise says:

    I have only skimmed your review and none of the comments, because I have also heard rave reviews of this one, and have it very near the top of my TBR. I’ll let you know after I’ve read it :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Louise, I do that a lot too! I look forward to your thoughts when you’ve finished.

  16. Andreea says:

    As always, thank you very much for your honest review. I really appreciate it that you always state your honest opinion regarding the books you review! I haven’t read this book and I am sorry that you were disappointed with it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andreea, Thank you!

  17. kay says:

    Great review. I love to hear another point of view of this book, it helps me get my expectations a little lower. I’ve heard so much good about this book, that I was almost scared to read it and be disappointed!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kay, Sometimes it helps to hear a range of perspectives. It doesn’t put me off reading a book, but it often helps to know which people enjoy each book. I’m pleased to have added to the different views you’ve read.

  18. Interesting to hear that you didn’t like this one. I’ve heard nothing but good things, although as I’m reading the comments on this post it looks like you are not alone in your opinion! I actually JUST took this home from the library so I should be starting it soon… I’m very curious to see how I feel about it! Thanks for your honesty in the review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Heather, I look forward to finding out which side of the fence you are on with this book. I think you’ve either love it or loathe it!

  19. I think this series appeals to men (and/or boys) initially more than to women. I was “sold” on reading Knife from a male bookseller/rep buddy who RAVED about it. I think it is men that resonate more deeply with Todd and his dog. It is difficult to judge the entire series on just the first book. Only the first and second are available, and the second one, The Ask and The Answer has an entirely different structure than Knife. The groundwork is being laid in Knife and there are reasons for the dialect and unrelenting chase sequence. Moreover, the themes introduced are more fully realized in The Ask and The Answer, and they are powerfully provocative not just for men, but for women. Knife is more of a testosterone thrill ride, with little softening effects of the feminine. That comes later in book two, such as it is. Nevertheless, none of it is resolved in either book, and books that are provocative and uncomfortable are sometimes not what we are looking for in a reading experience. Among those that have responded to these books favorably, there is an undoubting need to “discuss” the issues, whether they are those of politics, allegiances, violence, torture, religion, dominance, etc., all them profoundly etched into this story. It is true that not all books are for everyone, but I’m glad I overlooked my own preferences, to introduce myself to something that I would not likely have read otherwise. I’m hooked now. As uncomfortable as that may be.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I can see why you’d think this book would appeal to men more than women, but I don’t think I’ve seen any reviews from men for this one (unfortunately there aren’t that many men in the blogging world) all the rave reviews I’ve seen have been from women.

      It is interesting to hear that the structure of the second book is different, but I still don’t think I’m tempted to give it a try – it was too far away from the sort of book I enjoy, but it is great to hear the opinion of someone who enjoyed it.

  20. Thanks for the review. I find it disappointing when I read a book, do not like it yet it seems everyone else loves it. I have just recently read a book that was okay but I did not love as all other reviewers. I do appreciate when other reviewers are honest with their opinoins most especially if they did not like the book when others are loving the read.
    I am still going to giive this book a go still but your review has given me food for thought.

    1. Jackie says:

      Deanna, I’m pleased that my review hasn’t put you off. I hope that you enjoy reading it – I think the lovers are in the majority for this one!

  21. Melody says:

    Sorry this book didn’t work for you, Jackie. I’ve the first two books in my pile, but just haven’t got the chance of reading them yet (blame it on my reading mood!). Let’s hope the next book you read will be better!

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books. Don’t worry – most of the books I’m reading at the moment are very good!

  22. Annabel says:

    I loved this book and its sequel and can’t wait for the last part of the trilogy.
    It was short-listed for the Carnegie medal this year, and was the one all the boys at our school voted for to win when they read it (it didn’t win by the way).

    I think if you have an idea of the original target audience which is mostly younger teenagers, possibly boys in particular – then the dialect, which I believe is not really dialect, becomes boys’ (lazy) phonetic spelling (cf ‘Island at the end of the world’ too) and wasn’t a problem for me. Then you have the added layer of the men and boys being able to hear everyone’s thoughts so this dialogue is mostly one way and not voiced which account for some of the strangeness in language. I actually loved the dog’s devotion to his master. Then being a dystopian story, there’s always the degradation of language and skills to take into account as the settlers have to spend all their time working to live.

    Needless to say, the second part ratchets up the plot to another level, and we find out an awful lot more about the womens’ roles in this new world …

    It would a boring place if we all loved the same books though, so I always look forward to seeing what you think of your next reads too!

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, Thank you for the thoughful comment.
      It is very interesting to compare the dialect of this book with that of ‘The Island at the End of the World’. I think the problem I had with KONLG was that it wasn’t really dialect, or lazyness. The words were just mis-spellings. selecshun uses the same number of letters as the real word and is pronounced the same, so I don’t understand why is was spelled this way. TIATEOTW used a dialect which was spelt and sounded differently – it used shortened versions of the words but still made sense.
      I am sure that lots of people, especially younger boys, loved this book, but it is good to ensure that the balance of opinion is out there, so that people who get wound up my mis-spellings don’t make the mistake of reading this book!

      I’m not sure I know how this plot could be ratcheted up another level! I’ll keep an eye out for reviews and perhaps someone can summarise what happens for me!

  23. The reason for the misspellings in TKONLG is that Todd is illiterate. He can’t read the book that his mother has written for him, that he has been given by his “foster” parents. It must be a way to distinguish the difference between his characters and the others. Granted, if he can’t read, then he can’t write either, but that’s my sense of the “pronunciation” spellings in Todd’s dialogue.

    There are women fans of these Patrick Ness books, no doubt. It’s funny though, that I’ve run into many more men who are fans. In my discussion group on FaceBook, there are three women and twelve men (including the author!!)

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, Thank you for the link to the facebook group – I’ll have to have a quick look as I’d be interested to see what other people think. I’m still not sure about the mis-spellings – I think there are better ways to show illiteracy in a book, but I appreiciate that this book has a lot of fans – it just isn’t for me.

  24. I’m glad to read this review. I put The Knife of Never Letting Go on hold at the library after all the ZOMG AMAZING! comments on Twitter, so it is good to have my expectations tempered somewhat.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jen, I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts – it is quite disappointing to fail to love a book which others have been raving about.

  25. Stephanie says:

    I think I’ll probably read this one after seeing all the buzz about it, but I’ll be interested to see if I enjoy it or if I turn out not to be a big fan.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I’d love to know whether you enjoy this book or not. There has been so much hype!

  26. Meghan says:

    There has definitely been a lot of hype for this one. I haven’t reviewed it yet but I read it a couple of weeks ago and I find myself half agreeing with you. I did actually enjoy the fact that it was a thrill ride, as that was what I was looking for at the time, and I didn’t mind the misspellings. I thought they went okay with the fact that Todd couldn’t read, although to be honest I didn’t notice all the words he spelled right. Perhaps if I’d paid better attention and it seemed to be random, it would have annoyed me too. Instead I found it helped build his voice.

    On the other hand, I don’t think it was perfect. A lot of people talked about its emotional impact, but for me the book just went by too quickly for me to be sad about what happened in it. For a book to affect me on that level, I need to really feel what the characters are feeling, and it’s hard to do when the entire book is geared to find out what happens next. I did like it, though, and I plan on continuing with The Ask and the Answer.

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I agree with you – I really need to connect with the characters before I can become emotionally attached to them. Everything happened too fast for me to really care.

  27. Louise says:

    Heading out the door this Saturday afternoon (and should’ve left 5 mins ago), but will be back later with a comment + a link to your review on my own review. Great discussion btw.


  28. Louise says:

    Well, first of all I will say that Patrick Ness is not one of my favorite authors, even though I loved this book. I love that I – through book bloggers – have been steered towards the rich treasure of YA out there, and I throughly enjoy it. That said, I am not going to fill the rest of my reading life with YA. A stack (because they are easily read) here and there, yes definitely. And I look forward to much more without a doubt, but YA is not going to fill up the TBR, I am afterall, hardly YA myself anymore ;)

    But yes, I am one of those who really liked this book. I also agree with the commenters above saying that one has to keep the target-group in mind when reading it, and that the target-group must be mainly young teenage boys. An 18 year old boy might not be that infatuated with it ;)

    But with that in mind, I could picture a lot of young boys in my family and circle who would love this one (unfortunately, its not out in Danish, and while the young boys I know certainly are bright and smart, none are able to read in English yet). In fact it rather reminded me of two of my youngest cousins who are 13 and 15, how they talk, how their lives is one speedy and rough run through one actionpacked activity to another and where they, at the speed of light, really live and learn almost from minute to minute. They are really coming of age these years and have to make choices all the time (sexuality, experimenting, parties, curfews, the future, why can’t I get drunk if I want to etc etc).

    I didn’t mind the language, although, I admit, that I also frowned a bit over the deliberate misspellings. But I got used to them. I also found the book rather emotional at times (I even shed a tear at one point, I bet those of you who read it knows where!!) and I am looking very much forward to the next one in the series. I definitely need to know more about Todd and the rest of the cast.

    So, that was a bit from me :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Louise, I can see why teenage boys would love this book and it is a shame it hasn’t been translated into Danish for all the ones you know. It is interesting that you noticed most of the problems I had with the book, but still managed to enjoy reading it – I think I am getting much fussier in my old age!

      Thank you for such a thoughtful comment!

  29. Trish says:

    A balance of reviews is a good thing, in my opinion. I just bought this one and hope to read it soon, but I’m glad to see not everyone loves it. It isn’t always good to go in with REALLY high expectations! All that said, sorry it didn’t work for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      Trish, I will be interested to hear your thoughts on this one. It seems to be dividing people!


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