Head’s up everyone! This review contains a lot of spoilers for the “Chaos Walking” trilogy! So if you want to avoid that, click off this page now!
The last time I read a series, it was adult fantasy and was also one of my all time favorite series, the “Shades Of Magic” trilogy by V.E. Schwab. I can’t even tell you what the last YA series I read was. It was probably “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” or something. I have read so many YA apocalypse/distopia that I hated, that I’m not even sure what made me pick up Patrick Ness’s “The Knife Of Never Letting Go” in the first place. I am however very thankful that I did.
When I read the synopsis, I was feeling pretty “meh” about this one. The first book follows “almost a man,” Todd Hewitt as he escapes his hometown on New Earth, a planet that humanity escaped to once the o.g. earth’s end was inevitable, where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts and there are no women. He runs into a girl along his way named Viola Davis who crashed in a scout spaceship from a new group of settlers from the old planet earth. They end up running together, and adventure ensues as the two escape a crazy preacher, and an army. This plot develops into what becomes a civil war in the second book, and a global war in the third. I thought it seemed like a lot, but having read Ness’s “A Monster Calls,” I was hopeful.
Out of all three I think the second book was my favorite. The addition of Viola’s perspective made for an intriguing dynamic and a break from Todd’s hick dialect. I also really enjoyed the first one. The third one I could give or take, it was still well developed and entertaining but I also thing this series would have been just as powerful as a duology. In “A Monster Calls,” I was amazed by Ness’s use of metaphor, which is also found in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy. I also was impressed by Ness’s powerful character development, practicality, and themes. The development of Todd and Viola throughout the series is a big one because they are right at that young teen age where they essentially go from being children to being adults. Todd and Viola’s growth from everything they know being wrong, is enthralling and also very accurate to real life despite being on a more severe scale. I also appreciated the attention to the fact that people should not be comfortable with killing other people! I feel like a lot of times in the dystopian genre particularly. (*cough*, “The Hunger Games,” *cough*) people are murdering people and then just not having any emotions about it at all. I don’t care if they had to do it to survive, or whatever, they should still feel some residual guilt or mental turmoil over it, ESPECIALLY when they’re not doing it of their own free will. If they don’t feel torn up after that, then they’re just a straight up sociopath (*cough*, Katniss, *cough*, Everdeen, *cough*.) But I digress.
In “Chaos Walking” almost all the characters are constantly questioning where they stand morally and I appreciate that greatly. I also appreciated the awareness Todd had of his own masculinity and the fact that he had to keep it in check. For once toxic masculinity did not ruin the party because for once a straight male character was raised by two gay men and not a total piece of shit. (I mean toxic masculinity ruined the party for every other character in the book, but still.) This brings me to another thing that I really liked about this book. I went through the first two books thinking “wow, I can’t believe that he’s never going to mention that Todd’s guardians Ben and Cillian are totally gay for each other and that’s why they were able to save Todd from the toxic masculinity of this town.” Then in the third book, HE DID. And it wasn’t a big deal. It was never a secret from anyone because they can all see each other’s thoughts, they just never mentioned it because no one in this whole society thought it was a problem, and I think that is an amazing choice on Patrick Ness’s part. The whole book is so solely focused on the divide between men and woman and our two main characters are so starkly different in their thoughts on gender from the rest of the world that it’s impossible to miss the point that is being made.
A lot of other issues with gender are brought up with the pretty much genderless race of aliens. It is made clear from very early on that they are much more united than the humans, thinking as one entity instead of individuals. Thankfully it is also seen that lack of individualism in a society can cause problems of it’s own, when half of the race is left behind in slavery. Ness really covers all his bases. Overall, this trilogy is the greatest depiction of very real societal flaws that I have ever seen in a YA book. Which is crazy, because you would think books catered to youth would want to provide some kind of thought on their world. I think a lot do, and that it just ends up buried under a pile of flaming love triangles.
In the end I gave them all 4 out of 5 stars because they did of course all still have YA aspects to them. That flaw is completely based on personal preference, and I think if I had read it back when I was 12 or 13 it would have been put on the favorites shelf. The only plot aspect I really didn’t like was the whole power of love thing Todd and Viola had. It was fine in the more adult relationships, like Ben and Cillian. Todd and Viola’s relationship however, especially in the first two books, seemed very juvenile, so I had to suspend some disbelief there. I also was left with some questions at the end of it all, like: “What about Todd’s dad?” or “What happened to the Mayor’s wife?” or “Can I have a whole spin off series about what happened to that human/alien couple from the short story at the end of book two?” Other than that I thought this series was amazing. For anyone who read the book that wants to know, my favorite character was absolutely Davey Prentiss who is being played by FUCKING NICK JONAS in the upcoming film so I cannot wait to see my sweet baby boy come to life.
I hope you all enjoyed this, kind of all over the place, review. This month is going to be pretty heavy on reviews of movies and books, so if you like these kinds of posts make sure to sign up for email notifications! Now get off the internet and go read this trilogy!