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Out of the Blue

Italian book blogger. Loves Jane Austen, ice cream, and the colour blue.
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything.

Wow, did I like The Knife of Never Letting Go. It was heavily recommended by a few bloggers I admire, yet I hesitated to pick it up. Once I get into the story, however, I couldn't put it down. Be careful, however, that this book ends in one of the most vicious cliffhangers ever.

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement of New World. In a month he'll turn thirteen, the age in which you become a man in his town. There are no women there, as a virus killed them all shortly after Todd was born, and everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts, be them humans or animals. This is called the Noise.

One day, while walking through the nearby swamp, Todd hears something strange: a sort of hole in the Noise where he can't hear anything. Once he returns home, his adoptive parents urge him to run away, without really explaining why he needs to go or why the Mayor's men want to capture him.

Todd goes back to the swamp and discovers that the source of the silence in the Noise is Viola, a girl of his age who belongs to an expedition of new settlers and whose spaceshift crashed there. While chased by the men of Prentisstown, Todd and Viola start on a journey to the other settlements to seek for shelter.

This is quite a dark, violent book: many characters get killed, beaten, tortured, or injured. As some reviewers point out, Todd even beats his dog in the first chapters. I think this is done to show how Todd has always lived in a very violent society, yet he is not a violent person. He cannot bring himself to kill, and when he does, it is a result of the lies he has been told. As a matter of fact, there is no possibility of privacy or quiet in his hometown, yet people keep many secrets. As Todd's journey continues, he discovers almost all he believed to be true is actually a lie.

The world-building in this book is quite intriguing. We know that it is a planet called New World, with two moons looming in the sky. The inhabitants of New World are the descendants of the first colonizers who came from Old World (Earth, presumably) and who went to war against the aliens living on the planet, named the Spackle. Although these settlers must have possessed fairly advanced technology to travel through space, the inhabitants of Prentisstown seem to be barely able to survive through subsistence agriculture.

I loved the relationship between Todd and Viola. When he first sees her, he knows she's a girl even though he has never seen one before in real life. "If she was a girl, that's how she would look like", he thinks. At first, Viola refuses to speak and Todd even thinks she must be dumb or stupid. The inability to hear her thoughts and to conceal his own from her frustrates him. Yet he grows attached to her and becomes very protective of her. This couple sort of reminded me of Lyra and Will from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, even though I'm fighting the idea because that couple didn't get the happy ending I would've liked.

The cliffhanger at the end is really huge. It might have been irritating, were not for the fact that I loved the novel so much, and that I already have the following two books in the series. If I had read The Knife of Never Letting Go when it first came out and the series had just started, I might have been more than slightly angry with the author.

Cover attraction: there are a few covers for this book. The one you can see at the top it the UK hardcover, and I like it very much. It's simple yet effective, with the red shape of the knife, simbolizing blood and violence, and the scrabbled words around it which stand for the Noise. A variation of this cover has the red silhouette fo the knife on a white background.

On the right you can also see the US hardcover, which features the dark silhouettes of Todd, Viola, and Manchee running on a blood red background. I think I like this cover the most; it's simple and beautiful, and reflects the story very well. You can also see the two moons in the sky, which is a very nice touch. This might be my favourite cover.