What a whirlwind week it has been. I had 12 deadlines, many of them having to do with the new “Beautiful Creatures” movie out today, and I’ve also had very sleep this entire week, some of which is due to my decision to read the three “Chaos Walking” books. Well, I really only meant to read “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” but since all three were in my home, how could I resist the urge to keep going? I ended up starting “The Knife of Never Letting Go” last Sunday evening and finishing the third and final book, “Monsters of Men,” on Tuesday evening. I haven’t read an entire series that quickly and compulsively since “The Hunger Games” over the Christmas of 2010.
So as of a couple of weeks ago, I had all three books, and I remembered Capillya’s comment about Todd Hewitt being her favorite boy in YA. Having just read “The Indigo Spell,” I figured let me give it a shot. At least Tee will be happy. In the end, I couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what was going to happen to Todd and Viola and brilliant devoted Manchee, and Lee and Wilf, and even the Mayor and Davy. I. Could. Not. Stop.
Here’s a short Wikipedia (I know, I know, but it’s too hard to summarize these books) synopsis of the series:
The three novels feature two children, Todd Hewitt and Viola Eade, who encounter various moral issues and high stakes as the planet around them erupts into war. The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008) begins with Todd being forced to flee his town after discovering a patch of silence, free of Noise. In the second book, The Ask and the Answer (2009), tensions rise as a civil war between two opposing factions forms, and in the final book, Monsters of Men (2010) the indigenous species of New World rebels against the humans just as a ship full of new settlers is set to arrive on the planet.
I like dystopian books, but I don’t seek them out unless someone has recommended a title (in some cases, repeatedly). I can say, without reservation, that the “Chaos Walking” trilogy is one of the very best young adult books I’ve ever read. I realize you may not know, because we don’t focus on books that we dislike here, but there are tons and tons of YA books I’ve read that I would not recommend. So it’s not as though I adore every YA book.
Ness’ books are intense, and they’re not “easy” to read, but when you’re done, you’re basically undone because there are no more pages left to read about Todd and Viola. They’re young — 14ish (although he’s 13 by the 13-month calendar year he abides by) — but what they go through is a horror so incomparable it makes Harry’s battles against Voldemort look easy. I mean, at least Harry had fun at Hogwarts and kissed Cho Chang and ate sweets and played pranks and had periods of respite from his life-or-death mission.
Todd and Viola — who have been flung together under impossible circumstances on a planet where every male’s every thought can be heard by everyone else — are constantly and unrelentingly attacked and in danger and separated and there is so, so, so, so much loss and heartache and wow I’m making these books sound grim. They are. But they’re also about hope, about unconditional love, about the power of redemption and forgiveness and having a partner in life. It’s a series about never giving up and finding strength in yourself and in your capacity to love.
I’m rambling at this point, but please, if you’ve ever once read a book we recommended and liked it, read these books. You’ll immediately want to re-read them.
Some favorite quotes:
“Here’s what I think,” I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth. “I think maybe everybody falls,” I say. “I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking.”
I pull on her arms gently to make sure she’s listening.
“I think the asking is whether we get back up again.” (Todd saving Viola, “The Knife of Never Letting Go”)
He looks up and the loss in his Noise is so great it feels like I’m standing on the edge of an abyss, that I’m about to fall down into him, into blackness so empty and lonely there’d never be a way out.
“Todd,” I say again, a catch in my voice. “On the ledge, under the waterfall, do you remember what you said to me? Do you remember what you said to save me?”
He’s shaking his head slowly. “I’ve done terrible things, Viola. Terrible things-”
“We all fall, you said.” I’m gripping his hand now. “We all fall but that’s not what matters. What matters is picking yourself up again.” (Viola saving Todd, “The Ask and the Answer”)
“No,” I say firmly. “If you ever doubt anything here, if you ever not know what to think or who to trust, you trust Todd, okay? You remember that.” (Viola speaking the truth, “Monsters of Men”)
“And you,” he says, “you need to talk to your boy.” He lifts my chin. “And if he needs saving, then you save him. Isn’t that what you told me you did for each other?”
I let go a few more tears but then I nod. “Over and over again.” (Bradley reminding Viola, “Monsters of Men”)
So have I convinced you to give it a try? I hope so. Thanks to Tammy and Capillya for being such cheerleaders of the series.