84 pages 2 hours read

Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2008

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Summary and Study Guide


The Knife of Never Letting Go is a 2007 young adult science fiction novel by Patrick Hess. It is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. It tells the story of Todd Hewitt, the only boy in a small settlement called Prentisstown. Todd lives among 146 men on a planet called New World, where the men can hear each other’s thoughts, a phenomenon they call Noise. The novel explores themes of manhood, loyalty, whether it can be ethical to kill, and more.

Plot Summary

When the story begins, Todd’s thirteenth birthday is one month away. Boys officially become men on their thirteenth birthdays, but Todd does not know how it happens. The men hide their thoughts from him so that he can’t know.

One day, Todd’s guardians—Ben and Cillian—send him into the swamp to pick apples with his dog, Manchee. Todd finds a pocket of silence in the swamp, which he describes as a hole in the noise. At home, information about the silence leaks out of Noise. On hearing about it, Ben and Cillian tell him he must leave immediately, and they send him away with a rucksack containing his mother’s journal.

Todd flees into the swamp with Manchee, where they find a girl named Viola. Todd has never seen a girl before; Prentisstown lore says that all the women were killed by the Noise germ of the Spackles, the alien race native to New World. A crazed Prentisstown preacher named Aaron chases Todd and Viola. As the pair flee, Todd eventually learns that the Prentisstown men killed all the women and blamed it on the Spackle, and neighboring communities treat Prentisstown with disdain.

Todd also learns that to become a man requires a Prentisstown boy to kill a man. Aaron is following Todd because he wants to be the sacrifice. If he can provoke Todd into murdering him, he will become a saint, and Todd will complete the Mayor’s perfect army of killers. Viola kills Aaron with Todd’s knife, and Davy Prentiss, the town sheriff and Mayor Prentiss’s son, shoots Viola.

The Prentisstown army chases Todd and Viola to a large city called Haven. To Todd’s surprise, Haven is empty. Mayor Prentiss rides into town on a horse and tells Todd that he is now President Prentiss. He plans on conquering all of New World. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, with Todd suddenly unable to hear the Noise.