The Ask and the Answer
by Patrick Ness
Original Publication Date: May 2009
Length: 536 pages
Publisher: Walker Books
Obtained Via: Bought
Format Read In: Kindle book
Series: Book #2 in the Chaos Walking trilogy
View at the Traffic light:
We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…
Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…
“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.
The Ask and the Answer laughs in the face of second book syndrome. Despite the fact I read The Knife of Never Letting Go, I found it refreshingly easy to slip back into the world of the Chaos Walking series. My admiration for the main characters welcomed me back immediately, and I remembered why I love Todd Hewitt and Viola so very much.
Both main character grow so much in this book, but especially Viola. In many ways, I felt The Knife of Never Letting Go was mostly Todd’s character journey, and The Ask and the Answer Viola’s. However, both of them are faced with impossible choices and go through so many hardships. I just want to hug them both. I love how much Todd and Viola depend on each other, even when they’re not together. I just really, really love the Todd & Viola team. They have been through so much together and have such a wonderful bond.
We are the choices we make.
That quote is a theme in the book that comes up time and time again. Different characters say it, all with their own interpretations of that six-word sentences and their own agendas. They ponder over it in various ways. In some books, the repetition of that theme would seem forced or redundant, but it never does in The Ask and the Answer. The characters really grapple with this, even as they are forced to make terrible, terrible choices. There’s a scene about seventy-percent of the way through the book with Todd and Viola that just slays me, and Todd is force to make a terrible, terrible choice. His care for Viola is held against him and he makes what some would consider a bad choice. . . but he does it for Viola. Does that make it the right choice, then? There are multiple instances like that where the characters have to muse this idea over.
The world in The Ask and the Answer is even MORE brutal than The Knife of Never Letting Go. I thought there were scenes in The Knife of Never Letting Go that would be some of the most intense scenes I ever read. I was wrong. There’s a scene in The Ask and the Answer that made me want to curl up into a ball and never leave. If you’re been around my blog for awhile, you know I read a lot of books. And I read a love of Dystopia, horror, and otherwise dark speculative fiction. I’m no stranger to dark and intense scenes. However, I can easily say that the only book I’ve read with a more brutal scene that lingered with me than the one in The Ask in the Answer is the torture scene at the end of 1984. That’s a big deal, trust me.
I never know how I feel about split point-of-view books, but it worked amazingly in The Ask and the Answer. Todd and Viola’s voice are so fundamentally different, there was never the chance I would forget who was narrating a particular scene. This worked extremely well because for part of the time in the book, Todd and Viola are physically separated, and it made sense to see both of their stories.
I also really loved how much the side characters and antagonist developed in this one. There’s Davy Prentiss, who I want to hate at first but somehow grew on me, and of course, Mayor Prentiss, now President. He’s power-hungry but so calm, which makes him a perfect villain. As much as I hate him, I was instantly transfixed anytime he was on the page. Mistress Coyle, a new character, is also introduced in this book, and I find her fascinating. She starts off with good intentions but the by the end, you can’t help but to wonder if she’s the next villain.
The only, and I do mean the only problem I had with The Ask and the Answer is a plot development at the end. It’s intriguing and made me want to read the next book, but it was just too convenient. Of course this happens in the middle of a pivotal scene, in a way that would change everything. There’s plenty of unexpected developments in The Ask and the Answer, but they all managed to fit in well with the flow of the story. This one towards the end, though, I had trouble buying.
Aside from one particular plot point at the end of the book, The Ask and the Answer was a fantastic read. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Todd and Viola more, but somehow it was. The side characters all had a lot more depth than in the first book and the plot definitely thickened in an intriguing way. It was brutal at times, but yet I can’t want to read Monsters of Men. 4/5 cupcakes.