Eileen Kern

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Two Teen Book Reviews

During a recent trip to the library, I checked out two teen books that came highly recommended: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

The Knife of Never Letting Go Ship Breaker

It was a bit eerie reading the two back-to-back: In both, a boy from a strange and in many ways unwelcoming society discovers an outsider and this discovery disrupts the future he expected for himself.

In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd (and delightful canine companion Manchee) live in a settlement on a relatively-recently settled planet. This village, Prentisstown, suffered a tragedy in the recent past that claimed the lives of all of the women, and left the men unable to tune out each others’ thoughts. (Oh, and the animals on this world, Manchee included, can speak and be understood.)

It is dangerous to read The Knife of Never Letting Go without the rest of the series on hand; this fast-paced start to the Chaos Walking trilogy ends with a cliffhanger that leaves the reader grasping for the next book in the series.

While The Knife of Never Letting Go leaves the story open and unresolved, Ship Breaker provides a solid, standalone story that leaves the reader in suspense until its satisfying conclusion. Ship Breaker leaves the reader imagining a future for the characters but doesn’t demand a sequel. Bacigalupi selects a set of circumstances and characters, picks one thread and tells a very complete version of how events in that thread play out.

In Ship Breaker, we follow Nailer, who scavenges grounded oil tankers for valuable metals, as he experiences a serious betrayal by someone on his crew, then earns himself the nickname “Lucky Boy” with his daring escape. Nailer needs this luck when a hurricane hits, changing the landscape of the coast and introducing Nailer to a stranger he can’t necessarily trust, but might offer him his best chance at a better life.

I’ve heard good things about Bacigalupi’s other works, one of which (Drowned Cities) is set in the same world and has at least one overlapping character. Both books featured in this review are worth checking out, especially for readers who enjoy teen science fiction/dystopia.