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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: science fiction

This past summer, for my Media and Society class, we collected data from our days. That is, conversations – we wrote down conversations we observed, and ones we participated in.  The information was then mined for similarities, categorized, and put in collections.  It was then these observations became media.
We live in a constantly connected society. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other sites, we can know with a click of a button where our friends are, what our favorite celebrities are doing, up-to-the-minute news as it breaks, and more.
It’s these thoughts went through my thread as I sat down to write this review for The Knife of  Never Letting Go first of the Chaos Walking series.  That class proved the claim that information is everywhere.  But it took me a long time to review this. I actually read it when I received it in 2008. Then I read it again. I just couldn’t form words that could capture what it does to you.

What would it be like to live in a world where others could hear your every thought?

Such a society exists in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. The first in the “Chaos Walking” series introduces us to a world in which there are no women left, and every thought by a man or child is audible to all those around, due to an infection known as “Noise.”  Todd Hewlitt is the last boy in the strange settlement of Prentisstown.  His birthday is around the corner, and he’s about to become a man.   With only his dog,  the ever-faithful Manchee, for companionship, Todd ventures to pick apples in a clearing. Only it’s silent and devoid of noise.  More importantly, a girl, Viola Eade, whose spaceship has crashed, and she is its only survivor.    Todd soon learns Viola’s existence poses a threat and the two flee, pursued by the townspeople.

There’s a lot going on in this book, but unlike some dystopian novels I’ve read, The Knife of Never Letting Go appears to have a very clear direction. There’s a great deal of mystery and intrigue in this society, but as Todd uncovers more, the readers learn the real history of Prentisstown along width him. The varying fonts throughout Knife really illustrate  the overwhelming cacophony of thoughts that surround the members of Prentisstown, and let us feel like we’re on the run with Todd as well.   The writing is quick paced, and I flew through the novel, each chapter becoming more taut with suspense as Todd discovers the dark secrets of those he trusted.    The voice of Todd, however, was my favorite.  The improper grammar, the introspective moments , the running stream of consciousness, in other books it would grate on a reader’s nerves perhaps, here, it fuses together perfectly.   His growing loss of innocence is amplified in lines such as the following:

“Men lie, and they lie to theirselves most of all.”

“And there’s so much sorrow in his noise, so much worry and edginess, I know he’s speaking true, I know he can’t help what’s happening and I hate it…  We don’t say anything more. What else is there to say? Everything and nothing. You can’t say everything, so you don’t say nothing.”

This is a heavy read and will stick with you for quite some time.   The novel approaches so many topics from information to the role of women, to colonization, I could easily see it used in a classroom. On Twitter, I suggested it might make an interesting read next to Fahrenheit 451, with the constrasting themes of the ending of the dissemination of information and the overwhelming power of information.

Two things worth noting:  One issue I had with the storyline: Todd’s abuse of Manchee.  However, I did consider that within this society such treatment of animals isn’t vilified.     Also the foster guardians of Todd, Ben and Cillian, their relationship wasn’t explicitly stated, but it seemed that the two men were a couple who displayed nothing but devotion and care for Todd.  I found this refreshing in a YA novel, and liked that it just existed in the backdrop.

I’d recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go to fans of dystopian fiction, Fahrenheit 451, Candor, Margaret Atwood.

The second book in this series, The Ask and the Answer, has been released in hardcover as well. I warn you, The Knife ends on very unsettling cliffhanger. You’ll want to get The Ask and the Answer immediately.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title:  The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Date: 2008
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Pages: 496
Format: Hardback


I’ll admit, I’m not a regular reader of vampire fiction. But Night Runner, marketed as a new thrilling vampire tale for boys, came along and I bit. Pun completely intended. I’ve had a couple of male teens come to my store and ask “I’ve read Twilight, now what?”

Enter Zack Thomson. He lives in a mental ward, but he’s not crazy. Orphaned as a young child, Zack spends his days sleeping all day, and exercising at night. He’s on a limited diet of strawberry smoothies and his only companions are his Nurse Ophelia and friend Charlie. He doesn’t attend school, but there’s always television. It’s a strange life, but it’s his life. All this ends one night as a disheveled man crashes a stolen motorcycle into the front doors of the hospital. And his advice to Zack? “Run. They’re coming for you.” Now Zack will learn who and what is after him, and why. With the aid of Charlie, and new friend Luna, he runs from everything he’s known.
ith his debut novel, author Max Turner takes the familiar traits of the vampire canon and gives them new life. Zack, unaware of his “condition,” believes he’s allergic to the sun. He drinks red syrupy concoctions. And the vampire trait is actually a virus, a retrovirus that may spell a disastrous end for some vampires.  
Night Runner is written in first person, and it’s an excellent choice. This writing style amplifies the excitement and thrills he experiences as he uncovers the real reasons behind his “peculiarities,” facts already known to us the reader. We race along with Zack as he runs from what lies in store for him, and we’re there in horror as he relishes his first kill. Zack is an intriguing and fun character, as he makes observations on people such as Chicago Man, whose nonsensical rambling and dancing lets the listener hear one word clearly: “Chicago” or when he spends his first night as a “real” teen out at a bonfire.
There’s a few cliches in the book, and sometimes Zack seems a little too earnest, but the novel remains a refreshing approach to vampire lore. Offering movie-worthy action sequences and funny, realistic dialogue, Night Runner is good choice for teens eager for a book with bite.
Copy for review provided by the publisher.  
Title: Night Runner 
Author: Max Turner
Date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 288
Format: Trade paperback (Originally published in 2008 in Canada by HarperCollins Canada)
You can take the “Are You a Vampire Quiz,” and download wallpapers from the book at the MacMillan Night Runner site
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