Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.
But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.
Or are there?
Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.
Which is impossible.
Prentisstown has been lying to him.
And now he’s going to have to run ...
Todd Hewitt is the youngest in the all male town Prentisstown and only one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. In Prentisstown everyone – men, animals and even the Spackle (the planet’s indigenous creatures) hear each other Noise (thoughts) all the time and no one has any secrets.
However Todd and his dog, Manchee discover someone who should not exist – a girl called Viola – except that the planet’s women were all supposedly killed by the Spackle. And Viola has no Noise. As the certainties in Todd’s life are challenged, he finds that some in Prentisstown would do anything to prevent Viola’s existence from becoming known. Viola, Todd and Manchee are forced to flee for their lives and their journey in search of sanctuary will force them to learn to trust each other, even as it will force Todd to face truths that he’d rather not know.
Patrick Ness’s stunning novel (the first in a trilogy) deserves the awards that it has won (including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize). It’s a stunning science fiction story with a very human core. The Noise that’s surrounded Todd since his birth is a character in its own right – a constant buzz of uncensored thought and everyone’s brutal emotion. The way he shows everyone’s thoughts – from Todd’s brilliant first person narration to Manchee the dog’s simple thoughts is excellent and Viola’s lack of noise is a wonderful counterpoint to it – breeding a natural tension between the boy and girl and making the relationship that grows between them particularly hard won.
If there’s a weakness then it’s that with the focus on Todd, Viola and Manchee and their voices being so convincing, the antagonists (an insane preacher called Aaron and the creepy Mayor Prentiss) are a little flat in comparison. Personally, the focus on Todd and Viola’s journey, Todd’s discoveries about his past and the truth about Prentisstown all kept me absorbed but if you prefer a strong villain then you may be disappointed. The only other criticism I’d make is that Todd has the means to discover the truth for himself (i.e. his mother’s diary) and his refusal/inability to read it does get a bit frustrating but presumably this is because the revelations will emerge in the remaining books.
None of this should detract from the fact that this is a stunningly good book and one that I heartily recommend.
A stunning YA science fiction novel set in a world where thoughts are not private and history has been rewritten follows a teenage boy whose certainties are challenged and a teenage girl whose existence is seen as a threat. It’s an incredible read and one I’d heartily recommend.