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Patrick Ness – The Ask and the Answer

March 14, 2011

33. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (2009)
Chaos Walking, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. The Knife of Never Letting Go

Length: 520 pages

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Started: 24 February 2011
Finished: 26 February 2011

Where did it come from? Bought at Borders.
Why do I have it? I was delaying reading the first one, since I knew that I wouldn’t be clearing from my TBR pile so much as adding to it, because I knew I’d finish the first book and then have to go and acquire the rest of the series. I solved that problem by preemptively adding book 2 to the TBR pile. :)
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 19 November 2010.

How do you pick your
allegiance when you can’t trust
those on either side?

Summary: **Warning: Here be some major spoilers for the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go; read on at your own risk.** Todd and Viola, on the run from the Prentisstown army, have finally made it to Haven… but they weren’t the first ones there, and now it’s not Haven, it’s New Prentisstown. Todd and Viola are separated – he to a shabby locked room in the top of the cathedral tower, and she to the healers on the newly-established women’s side of town. The Mayor (now styling himself the President) swears that all he wants is peace, and for Todd and Viola to trust him and work with him. As long as he can threaten the safety of the other, they’ll each cooperate, but trust will take longer to come by… especially when a radical opposition force starts detonating bombs around the town.

Review: My review for The Ask and the Answer boils down to one line: It’s just as good – if not even a smidgey bit better – than The Knife of Never Letting Go.

So, if you haven’t read TKoNLG, then a) what are you waiting for? It’s fantastic!, and b) No, seriously, go read it. If you have read TKoNLG, then most likely you’re already diving after TAatA without stopping to read my review of it first.

Some particular things I loved about this book: I loved the addition of Viola as a narrator; and that we get to see her blind spots and misapprehensions and to contrast them to Todd’s. I love that this book has a message, and something to say that’s relevant to the way the world is today, but that it gets that message across to a young adult audience without dumbing it down its complexities and grey areas, and without having to shout “There are parallels here! See? Do you get it?!?” I love that this book took one of the nastiest characters from the first book and completely turned him around and made me love him without me realizing that’s what it was doing. And most of all, I love that this story is so insanely compelling that for the last 2/3s of the book I was glued to the pages, barely breathing, barely even thinking anything besides a constant litany of “Oh no. No. No no no.” (Patrick Ness is not a nice man, either to his characters, or to his readers who care about those characters.)

The only thing I didn’t love was how easily Todd got played by people more devious than himself… and not just once, but time after time after time. I mean, yes, that’s who he is, and I suppose he hasn’t had the upbringing on a diet of fiction to be able to recognize a classic slimy don’t-trust-’em villian when he meets one, but: really. Eventually something has to sink in. (So I guess my internal litany was more of a “Oh no. No. No no no. ….for real, again? Oh no no no.”)

But regardless, this book as a whole was just great; not exactly something I could call a fun read (“No no nonooo!”) but a fast, compelling, and fascinating read for all that, somehow managing to tell a complete story while still leaving things on the brink of a giant cliffhanger. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Just fantastic; everyone, especially those who like dystopian sci-fi, should give this series a try (but don’t even think about starting with the second book.)

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: I’m going to be lazy again and just direct you to the bazillion reviews of this book on the book blog search engine. But hey, it’s not really laziness, it’s efficiency, so that I can be done with this review and reading Monsters of Men all the sooner!

First Line: “Your Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.”

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 7:53 am

    The Ask and the Answer was my favorite book of the series…and I don’t think that has ever been the case with a middle book of a trilogy before.

    • March 14, 2011 10:32 am

      Lenore – You know what? Me too, both that it was my favorite, and that I can’t think of another trilogy offhand where the second book was my favorite.

  2. March 14, 2011 1:57 pm

    I really liked first book in this trilogy, but then I wasn’t crazy about this one… I still haven’t read book 3…

    • March 16, 2011 12:17 pm

      Kailana – I’m kind of impressed that you were able to leave things hanging off the edge of the cliff at the end of book 2… I’m working on my compulsive finishing, but I think I’d have had to keep going even if I hadn’t been enjoying them.

  3. March 14, 2011 4:09 pm

    This is the book that got me in love with this series for the first time. I actually also had those moments where I got frustrated with Todd for being gullible, but I liked him, so I just accepted that I had to bite my lip and race through the rest of the book! I loved the addition of Viola’s viewpoint too. I think it made the whole book more rounded and got that message across much better.

    • March 16, 2011 12:19 pm

      Meghan – I liked Todd too, and so was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. (And he probably wouldn’t have been so likeable if he’d been more cynical.) But I did have to keep reminding myself over and over that he had good reasons for being so naive.

  4. March 14, 2011 5:25 pm

    I do like some dystopia but I’m not crazy about it. I’m still interested in giving this series a try since everyone seems to love it.

    • March 16, 2011 12:20 pm

      bermudaonion – I’ll be interested to see how it works out for you!

  5. March 14, 2011 5:31 pm

    Not only was tbis my favourite one in the series, it’s one of my favrourite books full stop. :)

    • March 16, 2011 12:21 pm

      Darren – Yay! And don’t think that I didn’t have your sly, evil little twitter comment about the disposability of multiple narrators in the back of my head the whole time… :)

  6. March 15, 2011 9:15 pm

    “No. No no no no no no” is exactly my response to this book every time I read it. I can understand how Todd wants to trust the Mayor — even more so in the next book, weirdly — even as I’m going no no no no no no, Todd no oh no Todd!

    (I’m rereading The Ask and the Answer right now. It is wonderful.)

    • March 16, 2011 12:22 pm

      Jenny – Interesting to hear that the “No no no no” response doesn’t fade from knowing what’s coming…. although in these books, that might actually make it worse.


  1. The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness | Iris on Books
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