Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Review: The Knife That Killed Me By Anthony McGowan


Paul Vanderman could be at any normal high school where bullies, girls, and annoying teachers are just part of life. But “normal” doesn’t apply when it comes to the school’s biggest bully, Roth—a twisted and threatening thug with an evil agenda.

When Paul ends up delivering a message from Roth to the leader of a gang at a nearby school, it fuels a rivalry with immediate consequences. Paul attempts to distance himself from the feud, but somehow Roth keeps finding reasons for him to stick around. Then one day Roth hands him a knife. And even though Paul is scared, he has never felt so powerful.


Any book that opens talking about the specifics of a knife that killed them has potential. There is little doubt in the reader's mind the narrator has been killed by said knife, instantly sparking numerous questions about the events that led to it and even who was holding the lethal knife. McGowan opens the book with mystery and weaves the tale smoothly up until the stunning ending.

Paul is a likeable character who tries to fly under the radar at his school but when the bully- or most influential kid at school- shows interest in him, he reacts like most teens would do and begins to go along with what he's asked. Proving himself in unlikely ways , Paul soon finds himself immersed in a difficult situation and McGowan handled his motivations and responses very realistically, strongly showing the traits of this character. In the short time span this book courses, Paul shows a striking amount of growth and understanding, mixed with a more typical teenage type of response to certain situations all coming together to create a stunning character.

It is not only Roth whom Paul begins to show an interest in but the school "freaks" as well- the ones that stick with their supposed leader Shane and while they are picked on, they don't feel the same wave of terror associated with Roth. Paul doesn't fit in but he finds a way to, craving their companionship in a heartbreaking yet empathetic manner. This group holds its own hierarchy and its own set of unique characters, helping to drive this story towards the ending.

The plot, while seemingly simple, has a few shocking twists and even when the outcome seems clear, McGowan throws in something else before coming to the ending, tying everything together in a very memorable, resonating method. This ending will take your breath away and at least for the few moments after you've read the last words will leave you lost in thought. McGowan's writing is strong but very much keeps in time with a UK teenager, reminding the reader the setting of the book and even holding some times where Paul simply can't explain his thoughts because, despite what is happening around him, he is a teenager. From the disturbing contents of the mysterious package and message Paul delivered for Roth to the innocent crush Paul develops, The Knife That Killed Me is a swift read with a strong point driven home by the final page.

Source: ARC received from publisher for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (April 13, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385738226
ISBN-13: 978-0385738224

Author's Website


  1. it's sounds so good.. i wanna read ;)

  2. To be honest,the gory cover is creepy! But the story and your review sounds really nice :)

  3. Awesome review! You make this book sound amazing! I think I'm going to have to look up the book in the UK! Cheers for the review!

  4. Great review, can't wait to read it ;)

  5. I wrote this book. Thanks for a really thoughtful and interesting review.
    Best wishes
    Anthony McGowan

  6. i read it, it was so depressing! i cried when they figured out what was in the package :'(

  7. This was an amazing book!It was very touching and i enjoyed it very much it was sad but i liked it so much that i read it again