On a far-flung world newly settled by humanity, twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt of Prentisstown is a boy on the brink of becoming a man.
When settlers came to this world, they found it already inhabited by aliens known as the Spackle, and a war was waged against them to colonize the planet. Now, almost twenty years after the first settlers landed, the world is low-tech but free of the "spacks." However, they left behind them the "Noise germ," a chemical contaminant that causes all the men who come in contact with it to broadcast their thoughts for everyone's hearing--and kills all the infected women.
On the eve of his thirteenth birthday, Todd has never seen a woman. He was the last child born in the settlement before his mother succumbed to the Noise germ and died, and now he's the only boy left in the village of Prentisstown, all the others having turned thirteen and been proclaimed men. Now, with Todd's birthday approaching, the entire town is anxious, and Todd can hear it.
The men of the town are keeping something from him; although they can hear each other think, it's possible to learn techniques that allow one to control the information that others can hear. Ben and Cillian, his adoptive guardians and old friends of his parents, are both worried for him, though Todd doesn't know why.
And then, with less than a month to go until Todd's thirteenth birthday, he stumbles across a secret that no boy is meant to know and all men have been forced to forget, a secret about the history of his world and the lies he's been told. Todd has no choice but to escape from the town he's called his home and the people who have been his parents, on the run from something more terrible than the alien Spackle, and more familiar.
The sheer intensity of the story Ness tells kept me reading straight through this book, despite its length and occasionally hefty prose. Todd's first-person, present-tense narration has an inexorable pull that places the reader within the context of the story and keeps you turning the pages. The plot is full of twists and turns, the world is immaculately and innovatively crafted, and the characters' pain and longing seeps from the pages.
My largest complaint with this book was the way in which it ended, without resolving some major issues that had been significant throughout the story. It is the first book in a series, so this sense of incompleteness may be slightly forgiven, but I felt like I'd spent the entire book hurtling forward into empty space only to be slammed at the last minute against a brick wall.
That said, I'd recommend THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO to anyone who enjoys dystopia or slightly darker fiction, and I know I can't wait to see what happens next!
Reviewed by: Candace Cunard