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

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, Book 1) Book Poster Image
Exciting but violent dystopian thriller for teens.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 21 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 and 12 year old Written byMr.Robrob January 26, 2011
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 hav... Continue reading
Adult Written bycrazy for reading July 4, 2011

Excellent book but beware if you are sensitive

I loved this series. It is can't-put-down good; however, there is lots of violence, so I am careful about recommending it to students who might be sensitiv... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byannafan June 16, 2011

The Knife of Never Letting Go 14+

It's very violent, gory and describes the gore in detail, and uses language, but it uses 'effing' in place of the word, using the real word once.... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 15, 2011

Awsome!

Please Be Warned, this book is not for the faint hearted. It is truely awsome though. It has loads of killing refrences, but its all like; Your to weak! You can... Continue reading

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?

Don't even think of reading this book if you don't like being left at a cliffhanger -- the one here is a doozy

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.

Up until the cliffhanger, 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.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love fantasy books

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