Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

the-ask-and-the-answer

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 553 (Includes bonus short story)
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Ask and the Answer is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Therefore, there will be spoilers in this review. Check out my thoughts on Book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go, if you haven’t started the trilogy.

 

THE ASK AND THE ANSWER SYNOPSIS

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

Tense, shocking and deeply moving, The Ask and the Answer is a heart-wrenching exploration of free will and resistance under the most extreme pressure.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

After the heart-stopping cliffhanger at the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd and Viola find themselves separated, with no knowledge of where the other is or if they’re even still alive. They find themselves working for opposite sides of a war that is brewing in New Prentisstown, and they must try to stay true to themselves and do what is right even when faced with enormous pressures to conform.

What I loved most about this book was the social commentary that it provided. While The Knife of Never Letting Go examined self-discovery and identity, The Ask and the Answer looks at the bigger picture and explores free-will in an oppressive environment, terrorism and war, power and resistance, among other themes. I enjoyed the focus on the grey areas, on the fact that life isn’t black and white and that there is no right or wrong. What the book makes us realise is that things that are seemingly wrong are not always wrong and things that we do ostensibly for the greater good are not always right. Throughout the book we see our characters vacillate between this blurred spectrum of right and wrong, and their internal struggle to determine what’s best for the world and what’s best for themselves.

For me, the pace of this book was much slower than The Knife of Never Letting Go. Even though it was still a quick read for me, I felt like there were times when nothing was happening. The first 150 pages had almost not action and I wasn’t really excited by it until we got past the 25% mark. However, the rest of the book was exciting and I enjoyed seeing the conflict and the struggle for power. The book ends with a powerful climax and another unbearable cliffhanger. You should probably have Monsters of Men on hand so that you can continue straight away. I took a lot of willpower for me to stop and write this review 😀

We still get the same almost stream of consciousness writing style in this book but it was less noticeable for me than it was in The Knife of Never Letting Go. In this second instalment, we also get to read from Viola’s perspective and it was interesting to see the differences in writing style and voice between the two perspectives. I probably still enjoyed reading from Todd’s perspective a little bit more because I love his voice and how well the writing flows. But I still really enjoyed being able to see from Viola’s point of view. The shifts in perspective were smooth and didn’t feel jarring. I am in love with Patrick Ness’s writing!

The characters in The Ask and the Answer were fantastic. I enjoyed being able to see Todd and Viola develop further in this book, and develop separately. I probably enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go a little bit more than The Ask and the Answer purely because we don’t get to see as much of Todd and Viola together (I SHIP) but I also thoroughly appreciated being able to see them grow separately, with different influences. Needless to say, the scenes where they were together were my favourite in this second book. Another thing that I admire about Patrick Ness is his ability to make me loathe a character in one book and love them in the next. There were characters that I was expecting to hate forever and ever but they ended up being big surprises and I went all teary-eyed at some parts. All of the characters are extremely complex and make me continue to question their motives. Also, for those of you who were upset about Manchee in the first book, there’s another animal friend in this novel that might help cure your heartache. But Manchee will never be replaced! NEVER!

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful sequel! Even though it was a bit slower and didn’t have as much action as the first book, it never felt like a filler book. I enjoyed it as much as The Knife of Never Letting Go and I’m excited (and a little bit scared) to jump into Monsters of Men right now.

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12 thoughts on “Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

  1. Josephine says:

    AGH I NEED TO READ THE SEQUEL SOON. I can’t stand not reading it right now omg. The heartache over Manchee is still so real even after a few months. But I suppose there is hope of a new animal friend… Yay! BUT MANCHEE THO.
    I really really am so excited for the sequel especially since we get a glimpse into the mind of Viola!
    Great review 💓

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened to Manchee. The feels almost destroyed me. But the new animal friend is pretty awesome. She still doesn’t replace Manchee, but I liked her more and more throughout the trilogy. But all animal friends are awesome tbh. I REALLY liked the dual perspectives! I normally don’t really like multiple perspectives unless it’s really necessary but I thought it worked so well in this trilogy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. cw @ readthinkponder says:

    YAY, you loved this book for the same reasons I did! I just loved how Ness explored the grey areas of war/conflict. I think too often authors impose on readers a stance or ‘side’ they have to take when it comes to conflict, and I think it really curtails an opportunity for readers to think for themselves, to figure out what they really think about each side.

    For this reason, I think the Chaos Walking series is one of the most sophisticated and intelligent YA books out there – not only for its subject matter and themes, but also for how the author treats and respects his audiences’ intelligence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah! I really liked that a lot of it was kind of implicit and Patrick Ness wasn’t forcing any opinions on us. But at the same time there were little reminders about the kinds of things we should be thinking about (like when Mistress Coyle tells Viola that the world isn’t black and white). It’s a great series and I can totally see why this book is your favourite in the trilogy. It’s great that it’s a dystopian trilogy that actually says something, unlike series like The Selection where the dystopian aspects take a backseat to the romance and half of the stuff isn’t even resolved. The dystopian genre isn’t one that I usually read but this one was great!

      Liked by 1 person

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