The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
On New World, in the town of Prentisstown, Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts (including animals) in an overwhelming, constant stream of Noise. Just a month before the birthday that makes Todd a man, he and his faithful dog, Manchee, whose simple, loyal voice he also hears happen upon an area of complete silence. While Todd tries to keep thoughts of the silence out of his Noise he fails. He knows that the silence is part of an even larger secret the powerful men of Prentisstown are trying to hide from him and ends up on the run from them with only Manchee as his companion. Todd and Manchee return to the location where they first heard nothing and the two stumble upon the strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? They convince her they mean no harm and encourage her to join their escape. And, so, Todd, Manchee and Viola must try and escape from their pursuers who can hear their every thoughts.
Nick Podehl is my audiobook god! Ever since his first "dang it" in Carter Finally Gets It I have loved everything he has narrated. And this goes above and beyond all of my past experience. The way he portrayed the distinct voice (read: southern and uneducated) of Todd was so good. And his narrating of the animals and all the "Noise" made my experience so much better than if I had read it to myself. I'm sure that's part of the whole production but it added such a great element to a crazy, crazy story.
In other news, this book really should have been titled The Knife of Never STOP RUNNING. Seriously. These kids run for freakin' ever. They run for hours. That army from Prentisstown must be some big ol' evil because there is nothing that would make me run for that long. Holy geez, but those are some tough kids.
And, Manchee, the talking dog. Well, all the animals talk but he's awesome. Todd wasn't all that excited at having a dog throughout most of the story but Manchee definitely proved his worth tenfold by the time the story was over.
I also really liked how Todd grew as a person over the first book in the trilogy (haven't gotten to the other ones yet) from distrusting a girl--because he hadn't ever been around one and all the men in his town brainwashed him to thinking they were bad--to really depending on her and risking his own life to save hers. Just from his "Noise" and other thoughts he seemed like a real teenager (prone to "speaking" without first thinking, quick to judge and ready to take the easy way out) and I really like that he wasn't written like a know-it-all with all the knowledge he needed to survive what was happening to him. He was just this kid that was thrown out on his own and had to figure out, with the help of his faithful dog and, after a while, the help of his new-found friend, Viola.
And while I enjoyed the thrill-a-minute ride that this story was I couldn't help thinking more than once that couldn't Todd and Viola catch a break just one time? Those kids were constantly watching their backs, running from their pursuers and trying to survive by their limited wits and supplies. And escaping from Aaron--crazy, insane, persistent, not-able-to-kill Aaron. And the cliff-hanger ending ensured that they wouldn't get any respite in the next book of the series.