If you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too… I mean. You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town! (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state… Did he ever mention the name of the town? Anyway…) I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels. Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story. Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”
That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either. The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story. I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot. I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals. It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.
Some books were just meant to be audiobooks. I never actually read physical books of Feed or Thirteen Reasons Why, so I cannot say for sure, but I can’t imagine that it would have been anywhere close to the experience I had listening to them. My imagination is pretty good, but I don’t think I would have done “the feed” justice on my own and I firmly believe that listening to Hannah’s tapes along with Clay helped to experience his emotional reactions much better than reading the text would have. Now is the part, however, where I admit that I did not realize I was getting into “meant to be an audiobook” territory with this book. I decided to listen to this book because my current audiobook was almost over and this one was sitting on the NEW shelf. I recalled that it got a good review (which would explain why I ordered it in the first place!), but I didn’t remember anything about it. Well… I am really glad I “accidentally” took out the audiobook instead of reading the book because it definitely reminded me a lot of Feed!
Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, a small settlement on New World. His people came to New World to escape religious persecution, but they found plenty of new problems upon arrival. The two main problems were the Spackle (lifeforms indigenous to the planet) and a germ that causes “Noise” (the projection of one’s thoughts so that other people can hear and/or see them). In this first book of the Chaos Walking trilogy, we learn two very important details: all of the women of Prentisstown are dead and the boys “become men” at 13. Todd, the last remaining boy, is feeling anxious and confused about his impending 13th birthday because of all the secrets that are kept from the boys — including details about the actual ritual that will complete his transformation from boy to man. When, all of the sudden, Prentisstown becomes unsafe for Todd, his adoptive parents (Ben and Cillian — pronounced Killian) send him out into the wilderness with his dog (Manchee), a hunting knife, his mother’s diary, and a map that should lead him to another settlement.
There was a lot to set up in this first book, but it was not overly difficult to follow. Plus, the action and adventure work well to keep readers hooked while bits and pieces of the history of Prentisstown are revealed. Definitely a book/audiobook I would recommend to fans of dystopian science fiction.