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Talking Dogs and Terror: what more could a reader want?

TITLE: The Knife of Never Letting Go

AUTHOR: Patrick Ness

LENGTH: 496 pages

Todd can hear other men’s thoughts – just like every other man in Prentisstown. The Noise isn’t the only thing strange about Todd’s town: there are no women or girls in Prentisstown and Todd is the last boy in his town. There are no others. The Noise has been a part of his life as long as he can remember even though things like his parents or silence or females are things of a long-ago past. Living in Prentisstown comes with lots of “askings” and very few answers.

Todd returns home with a secret of his own after a routine trip to the swamp with his dog, Manchee. He “heard” silence. Todd wonders if he should share his discovery or not. But Aaron, the town’s spiritual leader, hears of Todd’s discovery in Todd’s Noise and by the time he makes it home, the town’s leaders are coming for him. His guardians, Ben and Cillian, rush him out of the house with an already stocked back-pack and a knife, telling him not to return to Prentisstown. They explain nothing other than Todd must leave and never return if he wants to remain safe. Ben tells Todd that his mother’s diary is in the back-pack and it will explain everything once Todd is safely away and can read it. Todd and Manchee barrel through the swamp in an attempt to flee Prentisstown. In the course of their escape, Todd discovers the source of the silence and realizes that it may be up to him to solve the mystery of Prentisstown, the silence and possibly save not only himself, but everyone else.

BRIDGE: This book could be used in a variety of ways but there are two that I think would be most beneficial. This book would be an amazing Mentor text to use in discussion of diction. Todd speaks with a country accent and uses some interesting vocabulary like saying “asking” instead of “question”. This would be a good way to show writers how to create a character’s personality merely through his/her dialogue. In addition, there are multiple types of formal and informal diction used throughout the writing to enhance differences between certain characters. Again, this would be helpful in showing students how to differentiate between characters with minimal description. It could also be used as a discussion point for a vocabulary lesson as several words most would consider a normal part of everyday language are not present in the book. It would be interesting to  turn these different observations into minilesson on etymology or the evolution of language.

Ness’s novel could also be used to introduce classic novels that deal with dystopian societies such as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, or Brave New World. In fact, I think it would be interesting to pair contemporary YA dystopian novels with more classic novels in a Literature Circle atmosphere and then compare and contrast all the titles. Perhaps four classic novels paired with four contemporary YA books. It would be interesting to see which elements of this genre remain constant while noticing which elements have faded or become inapplicable over time.

READERS: This book would appeal to readers who enjoy not just dystopian novels, but mysteries. The mystery of Prentisstown is slowly unraveled right up until the last page. Readers who enjoy fast-paced reads will enjoy the action and will feel just as spent as Todd by the end of the book.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book would also enjoy The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, or Divergent by Veronica Roth.

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