The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, Book 1)

Common Sense Media says

Exciting but violent dystopian thriller for teens.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Teens may rapidly read this book and look to other installments in the series. The author raises many issues for discussion, among them gender roles
and relations, the place of killing in our society, religion,
utopianism, what growing up really means, and (in an allegorical way)
the cost of our information-saturated culture.

Positive messages

The society in this story is very sexist, in some cases to the point of deliberately massacring women -- but Todd's coming-of-age story gives readers a chance to think about a wide range of issues, including what it really means to be a grown up.

Positive role models

Todd discovers that everything he has been told is a lie. Readers will have no trouble rooting for him as he flees an army bent on conquest, and an insane preacher bent on murder.

Violence

Lots, and quite grim and gruesome, including a man who has part of his face torn off, a man who beats and stabs a boy, a dog killed by breaking its back, children killing, and a girl shot in the belly. There are many injuries with realistic consequences, and many deaths. One especially gruesome climactic fight involves breaking of bones, snapping of gristle, crushing of eyeballs, and lots of blood.

Sex

A mention of castrating sheep.

Language

"F--k" used once, "effing" used often as a stand-in, "goddamn" used several times.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A girl is drugged, adults smoke and drink to drunkenness.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a fantasy book, but it does feature some gruesome violence -- horrible injuries are described graphically, and there is a shocking level of brutality, especially of men toward boys, women, and animals. One climactic fight involves the breaking of bones, snapping of gristle, crushing of eyeballs, and lots of blood. Not for the faint-hearted or sensitive.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Todd has grown up in a village of men, believing that everyone else in the world, including all the women, was wiped out in a biological war with the original alien inhabitants of this planet. The world is filled with Noise, as the thoughts of all, human and animal, are constantly broadcast to all. Now, about to reach the age of manhood at 13, he discovers that nearly everything he has been told about his world is a lie. Forced to flee with his talking dog and a girl who has crash landed nearby, he is pursued by an army bent on conquest, and an insane preacher bent on murder.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

In the course of this lengthy, complex, suspenseful, and emotional novel, the first in a proposed series called Chaos Walking, the author raises many issues for discussion, among them gender roles and relations, the place of killing in our society, religion, utopianism, what growing up really means, and (in an allegorical way) the cost of our information-saturated culture. He also includes possibly the best talking-dog character in all of literature, a dog who talks just exactly the way you'd imagine a dog would, to endearing and devastating effect.

First, don't even think of reading this book if you don't like being left at a cliffhanger -- the one here is a doozy. Up until that point the suspense has ratcheted up and up, as has the graphic violence -- if they make a movie version of this, it will surely earn an R rating. Though too violent for younger readers, for mature teens this is a first-rate, thought-provoking, fast-moving thriller.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the violence here. Does the fantasy setting make it easier to handle?

  • This is a pretty dark description of a future world. Can you think of other books or movies in which the future is depicted? What is appealing about these stories? Why are these depictions often so disturbing?

Book details

Author:Patrick Ness
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:September 1, 2008
Number of pages:479
Publisher's recommended age(s):12
Read aloud:13
Read alone:13

This review of The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, Book 1) was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byAthena Keene May 6, 2011
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

GREAT OPENER TO A GREAT SERIES (i think it's ok for 12+ though)

I read this when i was 12 and LOVED IT!!!! Like i say in some of my other reviews i belive 12+ can read this. I just beilve in the fact that each and every kid has a different maturity level. This book has great messages and strong charaters i look up to- even today. Stay true to yourself and you'll never know where life can take you.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bynsvv April 30, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

An extraordinary read but only for those mature enough to cope with it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in a truly incredible trilogy from Patrick Ness. The book is beautifully written, and keeps you engaged throughout with an engaging writing style and continuous dramatic and emotional twists in the story line. The book does contain some violence and bad language, and the general theme of the novel is too intense and difficult for younger readers to handle. However, it is a truly spectacular read for those mature enough to handle it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 2 and 12 year old Written byMr.Robrob January 26, 2011
AGE
12
QUALITY
 
This is, hands down, the best book for younger readers that I have read. As a high school English teacher, I am in contact with teens all day long, and so I have a priviledged access to teens in their everyday lives. This book may well also be the best book written for teenaged boys, because Todd's struggle to be a man, and to come to terms with the mystery of what a girl is, as a different but equal being, goes to the heart of what boys struggle through on their way to becoming respectable and honourable men. Sadly, not all boys make it as far as Todd on this journey, and too many end up more like Davey Prentice. IT is violent, yes, but the violence is healthy: it hurts and hurts and hurts some more. It is not glorified or glamourous, it is real. So many important subjects are broached in this book, and all in the right ways. I read this book to my daughter when she was eleven, and she loved, so girls get it too. It rightly deserves the awards it has won, and because it is fiction, it makes the reality of war accessible to readers who are, thank God, almost completely sheltered from it. It is brilliant from end to end, funny and terribly powerful.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Poll

What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide