The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What this book is about (assuming you have read The Knife of Never Letting Go):
The Ask and the Answer starts a few hours after the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go. Todd was carrying Viola who was mortally injured in his arms and led both of them straight into the hands of Mayor Prentiss. From then on, Todd and Viola are separated. Todd is forced to work for Mayor (now President) Prentiss who has taken over the leadership of Haven (now New Prentisstown). Viola stays in a House of Healing with Mistress Coyle who is a healer and who is trying to gather enough power to overthrow President Prentiss and his army of men. And this is when things get very interesting!
I just want to begin by saying that for me, The Ask and the Answer was much better than The Knife of Never Letting Go. The story was more interesting, the characters more diverse and complicated and the flow of the events was so much more intriguing. I have heard that some people liked the first book more than the second one, but for me Patrick Ness really stepped up his game with this one!
In this book we follow two different points of view, one from Todd and the other one from Viola. And this was my one and only problem with this book. Let me explain. The fact that we followed both Todd and Viola was a smart move and definitely enhanced our experience of reading. Since they are separated and both of them have to spend time with the two different authority figures, Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle, we get to experience both sides of the war. The politics, the plans and the manipulations of each side are shown perfectly through this two-sided point of view. But..but..I was really, very disappointed about one thing. And that is the fact that Todd and Viola had the same freakin’ voice! Patrick Ness has a very characteristic way of writing. But it bothered me so much that he used the same voice and almost identical patterns of thinking for both the main characters. In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd and Viola started out as two different, distinct characters. Somehow in this second book, their train of thought is too similar. Three time repetitions of sentences, thought pauses..all the same.
It’s not that you should never love something so much that it can control you. It’s that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled. It’s not a weakness. It’s your best strength.
But apart from this small problem that I had with the book, I enjoyed every other aspect of it throughout the story. In The Ask and the Answer we are watching two sides of a war, but not just any two sides. On the one hand we have Mayor Prentiss and his men and on the other hand we have Mistress Coyle and the women. This is a war between men and women! And it’s so very interesting! And this aspect of the story is enhanced even more by the fact that men have their Noise but women don’t. This is such a genius idea of a story, seriously.
“If you ever see a war” she says, not looking up from her clipboard, “you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors.”
And the Noise. When we follow Todd and Viola we are following their thoughts, their Noise, even though of course Viola’s Noise is happening only in her head. Patrick Ness takes us through the Noise of not just Todd and Viola, but also of other men and animals. And he has done such a good job in creating characters through their Noise that I ended up liking the character of a horse that can only say two words and nothing else. How is this even possible Mr Ness? The Noise is such a smart tool in the hands of Patrick Ness who can make you feel sorry for characters, be sad and at the same time furious at them and live right there, inside their heads. And to see Viola through the eyes of Todd and Todd through Viola’s eyes really allows us to experience the strong bond and affection that these two have for each other.
“We are the choices we make. And have to make. We aren’t anything else.”
This book has many twists and unexpected turns. You think you understand one character and it turns out you don’t. You think you hate somebody but you end up liking them or you think you like somebody and you end up hating them and liking them again. There are politics and plots happening, there is war and the horrors that the war brings and the monsters it makes of men.
I would call The Ask and the Answer a young adult, science fiction book, full of action, mysteries and surprises and with two amazing protagonists. If you like dystopian kind of books, this is probably one of the best out there. I definitely enjoyed it way more than the Divergent series which even though is quite different story-wise, it is still a young adult, sci-fi series. So if you enjoyed the Divergent series you will definitely enjoy the Chaos Walking Trilogy. And if you didn’t actually like the Divergent series I am very confident that you would enjoy this series. I would recommend it to anyone who reads action-filled books.
One last thing I would like to mention is that my version of the book came with a short story called The Wide, Wide Sea which gave a small background glimpse of Mistress Coyle and of two new characters that fell in love during the beginning of war between the Spackle and the people 13 years before our story begins. I would really suggest to buy this version of the book that I will link here as the short story was very interesting and also gives a small twist that I wasn’t expecting concerning the main book, The Ask and the Answer.
The Ask and the Answer is the second book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy. The first book is called The Knife of Never Letting Go and the third and final book is called Monsters of Men.
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The Ask and the Answer (including the short story The Wide,Wide Sea)
The Knife of Never Letting Go (including the short story The New World)
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