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528 pages


Patrick Ness
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Author's Website


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

3rd November 2008



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The Knife of Never Letting Go: Book 1 in the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go: Book 1 in the Chaos Walking Trilogy

Patrick Ness

Primary Category - 11+ readers   Category - Book Awards   Category - 13+ readers   

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Shortlisted for the 2009 Branford Boase Best Debut Novel Award

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Award 2009. Winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2008 and Booktrust Teenage Prize 2008.

The electrifying and unflinching young adult debut novel about the impossible choices of growing up by award-winning fiction writer Patrick Ness.

A word from the author:

'The Knife of Never Letting Go started as an idea about information overload. We're constantly surrounded by information - internet, emails, texts, etc - whether we want to be or not. To me, this can sometimes see overwhelming, sometime just so incredibly loud that it's impossible to make sense of. And I start thinking, what if you really couldn't escape? What if information never, ever stopped? And that gave me the idea of the Noise and of an intelligent, thoughtful young man buckling under the weight of it. There would come a day when he'd have no choice but to run...'


What the Carnegie Award judges said:

'A bleak and unflinching novel with fascinating characters and extraordinary dialogue which creates a fully-realised world that the reader really buys into. The dog Manchee is an inspired creation! Ness conveys a real sense of terror and the ending is devastating. A novel that really stands out.'

Click here to see The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, winner of the prestigious Costa Children's Book Award 2009



The Knife of Never Letting Go: Book 1 in the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

Imagine you're the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don't fit in with their plans. Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run.

For more information, visit


"Ness is a young writer of exciting quality and unpredictability." The Times
"One of the best first sentences I've ever read and a book that lives up to it!" Frank Cottrell-Boyce

'Ness ... moves things along at a breakneck pace, and Todd's world is filled with memorable characters, foul villains.' Financial Times

'Furiously paced, terrifying, exhilarating and heartbreaking, it's a book that haunts your imagination.' Sunday Telegraph

'There are some great stand-alone novels for 12+, but one in particular stands out as special: Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go.' Amanda Craig

About The Author

Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness was born on an army base called Fort Belvoir, near Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States. His father was a drill sergeant in the US Army. He lived in Hawaii until he was almost six, spent the ten years after that in suburban Washington state, and then on to Los Angeles, where he studied English Literature at the University of Southern California.

His main job after graduating was as corporate writer at a cable company, writing manuals, form letters and speeches and once even an advertisement for the Gilroy, California Garlic Festival (this is true). If you're American and hated your cable company, he probably wrote you a letter of apology.

He got his first story published in Genre magazine in 1997 and was working on his first novel when he moved to London in 1999. He's lived here ever since. Sometimes he teaches creative writing but mostly he tries to write 1,000 words a day, 'come hell or high water'.

 In May 2008, he published The Knife of Never Letting Go, his first book for young adults. It won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize and he hasn't looked back since.

Q&A with Patrick Ness

1.  Todd, the main protagonist of The Knife of Never Letting Go has a wonderfully individual and powerful voice.  From where did the inspiration for this character come.

Todd’s partly me at that age:  sensitive, serious, probably a little too intense.  But his voice is a creation that took a couple years of listening to him in my head.  There’s a little bit of Russell Hoban’s great Riddley Walker to him, but I kept trying different approaches until suddenly, one day, there he was on the page.  Part of it’s hard work, but part of it is that unknowable creative magic thing:  he wasn’t here, then the next minute he was.  I sort of don’t want to know, really.


2. Where did the inspiration come from for the idea that germ warfare could kill all the women and leave the surviving men and boys able to hear each other’s thoughts?

The idea of the germ warfare that killed all the women was the strongest, saddest way to make clear this is a dying town.  There can be no more children, and Todd is the youngest one there, so he’s even further isolated.  What can do you when you’re facing a future like that?  How do you feel? And the idea of the Noise, where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, is just the logical next step from the kind of world we live in today:  texting, emails, messaging, the internet.  Information is everywhere, whether you want to hear it or not, and it’s harder and harder to be a private person.  I just went another step to wonder how hard it would be for a teenager at their most awkward age to have no privacy at all.  It would be a nightmare, really.

3. Who are your favourite writers and how have they inspired your work?

My favourite adult writer is Peter Carey, easily.  An Australian who’s won the Booker Prize twice, he’s a master of different voices and creating whole new visions of reality.  The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith is an inspiration on The Knife of Never Letting Go, with its odd narrator and different world. When I was growing up, I loved to read the oddball children’s writers that everyone else thought were too weird or disreputable.  One in particular is an American called Daniel Pinkwater, whose books are completely out there.  I remember one where the hero and his grandfather drive past Hell and discover it’s a huge tourist attraction.

4. How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?

Not a lot, only in general characteristics.  I don’t write historical fiction, nor is my work often obviously realistic; I like to push things out there a bit, see how I can bend reality in unusual ways.  I find this frees me up to pick and choose inspirations and blend them together.  Having said that, I had a fantastic great aunt called Ingeborg from Norway, a real grandmother figure to me.  And in The Knife of Never Letting Go, there’s a character called Hildy who’s Ingeborg all over, so real people do show up in the oddest places.
5. Each of the characters can hear everything that everyone else is thinking.  This is a clever device but was the writing difficult to pull off?

Only in the planning, because I had to really believe that the characters had lived like this for years.  So you have to ask yourself questions like: how would they keep secrets? How would they tell lies?  How would they interact with each other if you couldn’t disguise how you really felt about someone?  After I got all that figured out, it took on a life of its own and felt like it was writing itself.

6. Which authors do you think readers of The Knife of Never Letting Go will also enjoy?

Phillip Pullman is an obvious choice, everyone should read him.  And there’s a great American writer called M T Anderson who’s worth searching out.  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is absolutely remarkable, and the sequel’s coming out soon, too.

7. Why did you want to focus on a teenage main character and reader?

Truthfully, because it suited the material the best.  That’s my only criterion.  I think if you start out saying, “I want to write for teenagers, so what should I write?”, you’re asking the wrong question.  You should always start with “What’s the best way to tell this story?”.  And the best way to tell Knife was with a teenage main character and for a teenage reader.  Those were the ways that were going to make the book its most free, hard-hitting and exciting to read. 

8. What advice can you give would-be children’s authors in getting published?

Kind of like what I said above:  you should always, always, always start with a story, not with the idea of getting published.  Write a book you’d want to read, write a book that excites you, and you’re halfway there already.  Your goal should always be writing the best book, not getting it published.  If you can do that, your chances of actually getting it published are much better, because then you’ll have a good book to show people.

9. What made you leave your native America and move to the UK?

Simply put, the opportunity came up and I took it.  I think all writers are wanderers at heart (we spend most of our time wandering off in our imaginations anyway), so if you get a chance to change your surroundings, it can only be a good thing for your work

10 Things You Didn't Know About Patrick Ness


1. He has a tattoo of a rhinoceros.
2. He has run two marathons.
3. He is a certified scuba diver.
4. He wrote a radio comedy about vampires.
5. He has never been to New York City but...
6. He has been to Sydney, Auckland and Tokyo.
7. He got accepted into film school but turned it down to study writing.
8. He was a goth as a teenager (well, as much of a goth as you could be in Tacoma, Washington and still have to go to church every Sunday).
9. He is no longer a goth.
10. Under no circumstances will he eat onions.

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