Written by: Patrick Ness
Published by: Candlewick Press
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
(Synopsis for Book 1: The Knife of Never Letting Go)
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a 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? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
I wanted to do something a little different with this “review”, because a) I’ve never written a series-review before, and b) I adored this trilogy so much, I honestly just didn’t know how to cope with writing an actual, well-reasoned review. I also read all three books back-to-back in a sort of Chaos Walking readathon, which was the best and worst decision of my life. My feels are still recovering.
So, instead of a level-headed review, I want to lay out a few hypothetical scenarios in which you shouldn’t read Chaos Walking. :O
(Spoiler: This just means I use lots of double negatives to tell you that you need to read this series. Shhhhhhhh, I’m trying to be sneaky.)
So here we go!
1) Do not read Chaos Walking if you don’t like…
…original worldbuilding and unpredictable plots.
One of my first reactions to this series (okay, I was probably only 3/4ths of the way through the first book when I thought this, but still) is that it should be required reading for all fans of YA dystopian. This series perfectly balances excellent worldbuilding with fantastic character development and growth, plus a gripping plot and break-neck pacing. It’s also one of the only series I’ve read that was truly unpredictable, which is sort of a rarity for me recently. For the entire series, I would make predictions about where things were going, only to be completely blindsided by whatever turn of events actually ended up happening, and I cannot tell you how amazing that experience was. There’s usually an element of predictability with any of the books I’ve been reading lately, and Chaos Walking just… really, it reminded me what drew me to the YA dystopian/sci-fi genre in the first place. These books are the embodiment of my Goodreads shelf, “This is how it’s done, folks.” Because this is how good sci-fi/dystopian is done.
2) Do not read Chaos Walking if you don’t like…
…solidly-developed main characters and captivating first-person narration.
The characters in the Chaos Walking trilogy are almost indescribably fantastic, to me. Todd was my favorite, but both Todd and Viola have some of the best believable character growth, flaws, strengths, and solid personalities, that I’ve seen. Ness has a serious talent for hitching the reader’s emotions to whatever character he’s writing in that moment, and making you feel every single thing that they’re going through. This has a lot to do with how the characters themselves are written, but it also has to do with the first-person narration from which he writes. Especially with Todd. I was a little wary of Todd’s semi-dialectical speech (and spelling) patterns, as I’ve been burned by those kinds of narrative voices in the past. But the way Todd’s narration was written… it was just flawless: It added so much to the feel of the books, and it was actually really easy to get into, really natural and train-of-thought. I loved it to death.
3) Do not read Chaos Walking if you don’t like…
…or if you’re looking for a dystopian-“light” with a romance-centric story. Those kinds of books are good, but this series is not one of them. What I loved about the “romance” in this series is… sort of, its absence. This is one instance where I was pretty sure one thing would happen, and then it totally didn’t. Boy finds girl while running away from his old town — well of course they’re going to fall in love like, immediately, and then the rest of the series will be about maintaining their relationship through all the hard stuff that they have to go through… Yeah, not so much. The trilogy does deal with Todd and Viola’s relationship, as it’s an important part of the story, and they do end up meaning a lot to each other. They get to know each other slowly, and they come to trust each other desperately, but they also disagree, and they end up sticking to their beliefs even when it separates them, and they make big mistakes, but they also forgive each other, and trust each other despite their disagreements, and just… I can’t. This is not a series where the romance is center-stage (there is much bigger stuff going on that just Todd and Viola). But the two of them, and their faith in each other, are incredibly important to the story, and their relationship was one of my favorite things about the series.
4) Do not read Chaos Walking if you don’t like…
Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. If you’re not a fan of FEELING THINGS for the characters you’re reading about, stay far away from this trilogy. I even referred to it as “Chaos Walking all over my feels” at one point on Twitter (give me a break, I was distraught — in a good way). I can guarantee that, if you’re like me, you will get attached to these characters — they will make you cry, they will make you whisper-yell–maybe actual-yell–at your book, they will weasel their ways into your heart, and you won’t be able to stop cheering for them, being afraid for them, and feeling everything they feel. Ness is a master of emotions-manipulation, and he uses that gift to its full extent in this trilogy.
5) In other words, do not read Chaos Walking if you don’t like…
Patrick Ness will be going on tour for the US release of The Crane Wife (his newest adult novel), and will be visiting my favorite local indie bookstore this Saturday at 6pm! The tour is associated with the US release of The Crane Wife, however he will be talking about all his books, and of course, he will also be signing. So if you’re in the Seattle area, and have read any of his amazing titles, click here for details. I might see you there!
If you can’t make it to the event, but want to snag a signed copy of The Crane Wife, click here to preorder. (UBS does ship internationally, but there is a higher shipping fee.)