Oh my good gracious. I have found a book that is now in stiff competition for first place in my 2008 favorites.
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in a town full of men. He has a month left before he turns 13 and in the eyes (and laws) of Prentisstown become a man. He can't wait. Only it doesn't turn out quite like he thought. He discovers disturbing pockets of quiet in the swamp. Quiet that shouldn't be there. Quiet that no one has known since all the settlers of New World were infected with the Noise virus that makes it possible for everyone to hear everyone else's thoughts. Secrets begin to rise to the surface, ugly, violent, dangerous secrets. Before he can blink, Todd must escape in order to survive.
The Noise germ that has infected all the men (it immediately killed all the women) has also infected all the animals. Todd has a dog named Manchee that he can talk to and they can hear each other's thoughts as well. Hearing the thoughts and spoken words of every man and creature is a loud cacophonous ever present sound. Hence the name - the Noise germ. It is almost unbelievable how the author manages to present what could be a confusing situation. He uses fonts which almost appear like illustrations as a physical representation of what being infected with the Noise virus feels like. It is so effective. He also uses italics for thoughts in many cases. And even more amazing he creates personalities for creatures (like squirrels and alligators and sheep - oh the sheep!) so their thoughts are exactly what you think they would be. And Manchee the dog is pretty much what you would expect. He is loyal, thinks about pooing a lot, loves to chase, and is the sweetest thing that will completely steal your heart. When I could tear myself away from reading (which was very difficult) it was to pet my dogs and tell them i loved them.
There are so many twists and turns to this story it would be easy to accidentally let loose with spoilers and that would be tragic. Luckily, the back cover of the galley (which says what I presume will be the inside flap) doesn't give away anything. I can safely say that it is almost non-stop action that will leave you breathless as you wait to find out what happens next. Todd learns some hard lessons. My favorite was that people fall from grace, what's important is not that you've fallen, but that you pick yourself back up. READ THIS!!! Seriously. Read it!