Todd Hewitt is almost a man. He is exactly 12 years and 12 months old, and in one month will be a man of Prentisstown in New World, a place where Noise seems to fill the air and women are curiously absent. But before he can become go through that boy to man transition, secrets are revealed and a it becomes a deadly escape to runaway from the clutches of an army. On the escape, he meets a girl, discovers secrets from the past, and tried to get to Haven.
I was initially very skeptical about liking this book because in the first few pages the intentional spelling errors to give that country hick slang threw me off. Words like creachers and usage of yer and other intentional misspellings... those usually annoy me even when it's intentional. But luckily I stuck with the book because I actually ended up liking it. Ness doesn't overuse that slang, so if you're bothered by that as well, I can just say that it's palatable after a while. One thing though... it's a little strange sometimes to see ain't, yer, explanashun, and then suddenly see the word "percolate" or something like that. That just struck me as a little jarring, but mostly amusing.
Todd is a very easily likable characters. Everything is written in first person point of view, so you better like him. But I liked him because his tone felt very genuine, his response was very much like a boy trying to figure out what to do next, but still be a man. It was a convincing boy-goes-on-an-adventure story.
Similarly, Viola is a good female contrast to Todd. She should be
The plot is fairly engaging, though at some points I felt like it was contrived. For example (mild spoiler?) Todd builds a boat by lighting a fire in a tree. Really? No. Not that easy. Or when key villains manage to cross paths with Todd and Viola... contrived. Would they really cross paths that easily and so frequently? No. But it's okay, these little things I can let slide by suspending my disbelief a little.
The world was interesting because there are still a lot more unexplored questions to be asked - even at the end of the story. The rural setting juxtaposed by spaceship colonizing new worlds is very, very interesting. As well as the native world differences (Spackles, Noise, etc.) I loved the dialogue between Todd and Viola when these differences were brought up in conversation.
It's a fast read because it focuses on action: running away and discovering secrets. It detracts away from the world building, but that's okay. There's still two more books. Character development was fine because everything was in first person - you really do feel like you know Todd at the end of the story.
I appreciate the lack of blatant romance. Seriously. Thank you.
I also appreciate literary references (Robert Frost, a little too heavy handed though, but still fun to catch; and Viola's name - maybe Shakespeare Twelfth Night?)
On character deaths (spoiler for the paragraph): There are two major ones. The first one was pointless and I don't understand why the author did what he did. There is nothing gained from it. The second felt a little fake because he reappeared and then died, intermittently telling the truth behind everything. No. Things don't work that easily. No!! Argh, I felt like the author just wanted to kill them off for emotional drama, rather than actually increasing the value of the story.
It's definitely a cliffhanger ending, but the book was such a fast read that I'm actually okay with it. There was enough action, enough character development, enough story to make it worth the read - despite it didn't "end". I actually like how it increases the anticipation and sets the tone for the next bit.
So three stars because I liked it. I don't have too much to complain about except little details. But the thing is... it's not a book that makes me go wow, that was amazing. It was just a light, easy read that brings you along on a fun journey. Although it gets dark in some moments, it's still an adventure. Don't expect thought provoking social commentary or moments that make you really sit back and go whoa. But it's still fun, so three stars.
Recommended for people who want an adventure that isn't too difficult to get through. Definitely shelved in the YA section.
Okay, I finished the series and I have to say... the series only gets better from here. The second book is worth reading and I loved the third book. So definitely recommended to people who want a good series that ends well.