So I’ve been hearing good things about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains for a while now (and man does it have a fab cover!) but I’ve got this problem – every time I see the book or think about it, I get that song stuck in my head – “Chains, my baby’s got me locked up in chains…” Except that’s the only line I can remember. And it is SO inappropriate for the book. Anyway, after finishing up The Knife of Never Letting Go last night, it’s next on my list, and I’m resigned to never getting the song out of my head.
I’ve also been getting it stuck in my head whenever I think about chains on my car – which seems like a problem that will not go away since it started snowing again today. Snow is so much nicer when you don’t have to go to work. But ice is never nice. Oh, I crack myself up. This is weather that demands you curl up with your book and your cup of coffee and only leave the house to frolic in the snow, before coming back in for more book and more coffee.
I kinda went all gushy over The Knife of Never Letting Go, but I think it deserves it. Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Teensy-tiny mild spoiler at the end – nothing specific.
Here’s a book where form and content are wonderfully matched. Todd’s first person narrative is gripping and suspenseful, and the use of an imagined dialect is perfect for the world he’s coming from. Noise is visually depicted on the page with changes in font and size that never feel gimmicky – the effect of turning the page and seeing the Noise Todd hears as he walks through Prentisstown is much like the shock of turning the page and seeing Octavian Nothing’s scratched out words. Plus, the sometimes choppy sentences give a real sense of immediacy, and this gets turned up a notch for the more tense scenes – and there are plenty of them!
The characters are fantastic and vivid, including all the people Todd and Viola meet along the way, and as someone who’s not an animal person, I have to give special mention to Todd’s dog, Manchee. He was probably my favorite character, and despite his limited abilities with language, he had an incredibly strong “voice.” As Todd tells us in the opening sentence, “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” But oh boy does he come alive on the page.
This is a huge page-turner, and despite its length moved along at a nice brisk pace, with plenty of action. There is a fair amount of violence, but it’s a source of anguish for the characters, rather than feeling gratuitous. There’s plenty of moral complexity in the story, and it’s incredibly thoughtful for how action-packed it is. For me, it’s that combo of emotional complexity and fast pace that really make it stand out. Plus, the dystopian elements aren’t too heavy handed, and the dash of sci-fi adds interest without detracting from the story.
Oh, did I mention it’s a cliff-hanger? Plenty is left for the next volume, in terms of Plot, but there are smaller loose ends – like knowing more about the Spackle – that seem just as compelling. But really, by the last few pages, I was so invested in characters surviving that I didn’t care about anything else.