I don't read young adult fiction all too often but I've seen this novel referenced by several other Cannonball Read participants so I decided to try it out. It's very well plotted and paced, which makes it very hard to put down. I basically finished it in almost one sitting with a few interruptions, and already told my dad who enjoyed The Hunger Games to pick it up when I was about halfway through.
Todd Hewitt, the narrator, is the last boy in Prentisstown. Years ago, there was a war on New World between the local species called the Spackle and the settlers, and they released a germ into the air that killed all the women, half the men and left the rest of the men infected with Noise. Due to Noise, all the men can hear everyone's thoughts, including the animals in the area. This doesn't mean it is impossible to lie in the Noise because the men have learned to hide thoughts underneath the noise of other thoughts, but it does make it difficult to keep things hidden. This is the problem Todd faces 30 days before his 13th birthday, which is the day he will become a man - he discovers quiet. While in the swamp, he and his dog Manchee stumble across a hole in the Noise, and he doesn't know how to explain but also doesn't think he should share it with the town. Instead he goes home to tell Ben (his parents died due to the virus, and Ben and Cillian raised him). Ben and Cilian's reaction is unexpected to say the least - they pull out a backpack they've had packed for his escape, and tell him he must leave Prentisstown forever for his protection. The town's sheriff is already knocking at his door as his two guardians send him off with food, his mother's journal that he can't read and the message that he has been lied to his whole life.
The journal includes a map which Todd determines to follow. Honestly, I don't want to get too much farther into the plot - I was definitely expecting some of the twists but not necessarily all of them, and I would hate to ruin the surprise for other readers. Along the journey, Todd discovers many things that surprise him as well as the truth. The novel ends on a cliffhanger since it is part of a trilogy but I feel like it was a good place to end - it ended in a dark place, and has definitely left me wanting more (kind of like The Empire Strikes Back). I'm already kicking myself because I only got the first two books in the series - I figured if it was good, I would want to keep reading but wasn't sure if I actually wanted to commit to the whole trilogy or if it would be good. I only hope they still have a copy of the last part in the bookstore this afternoon.