First ReviewThe Knife of Letting Go
forced me to release certain conceptions of how a book must be written. Due to its unorthodox use of grammar and various fonts and forms evident in speech I had to adjust for the first few chapters before being able to immerse myself in Patrick Ness' work.
Once I accepted the eccentricities of this novel I found it to be a brilliant, yet dark, read. This is one young adult book that's a little more adult than purely young. For this book centres around a town without women, where the men in the cursed Prentisstown constantly emit noise from their minds so that everyone is surrounded by sound all the time. That's the sound of a thousand thoughts and emotions. Alright that doesn't sound too chilling - until you find out where the women disappeared to.
The first haunting idea present is that Todd Hewitt is the last boy left in Prentisstown. Right from the start the absence of women, the protective nature of his guardians and the strange alien world Todd lives on builds an aura of suspense. An intriguing element of darkness mixed with the ever present thread of life exists within this story from the start. It is therefore a gripping novel from the beginning.
Its a very gritty read. Definitely not a light type of read as it requires time to digest the many deep and questionable themes within it. In fact one of the strengths with this book is the questions it can raise about morality, ethics and the heart of humanity. It is the type of YA fiction that has arisen in the past few years and which the market can do with. It is the type of novel that is not afraid to approach adult themes with younger readers.
The ideas are deep, mirroring the history of previous settlements formed amongst new cultures, the writing is both simple and sophisticated and the plot is both tightly knit and creative. It exists as a book accessible for all types of mature readers - although I would hesitate to allow younger readers to read it due to the slightly graphic tone at times. All in all I would rate this novel as one which truly challenges its readers. And that is its lyrically haunting power.Secondary review
After a re-read I can see that while I very much enjoyed this book it is weaker when compared to the second and third novels. That said it is still strong enough when first read and then re-read to be around 4.5 stars in my opinion.
The writing again I had to adjust too. That said I feel that the style was fine considering the world and characters. And I did particularly love the world and characters which of course helps cover over a multitude of writing sins. Cliché's in my mind are not bad writing. Poor use of grammar and words may be (and certainly the grammar and word use is unusual if not all out like Cormac McCarthy at this stage - his use is certainly in a league of his own) and yes at times it may be considered poor writing. That said the writing is good in that it is meant to be the protagonist writing the story and I think that a protagonist would not write with flowery flourishes but with a down to earth casual speaking style.
All said and done this is a book that's worth a re-read. Even though I've read other books since it it still stands on its own as a highly unique YA novel. I highly recommend it if you can handle the strange writing style. If not it may still be a three star read at most for its unique ideas.