26 February 2010

Book Review: The Ask and the Answer

Title:  The Ask and the Answer
Author:  Patrick Ness
Published:  2009  Pages: 519
Genre: YAL, SFF

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis
My review of the first book in the Chaos Walking series, The Knife of Never Letting Go, can be found here.

Todd and Viola have arrived in Haven, but they do not find the Haven they were expecting.  Mayor Prentiss, with the threat of his army, defeated the town without firing a shot.  And now, as President Prentiss, he is enforcing his will upon the community.

My Thoughts
The Ask and the Answer is a dark book, an unflinching look at the way war can distort thinking and action.  Books centered on war of this nature, the non-fighting-mental-kind, always disturb me as those who the reader identifies as good are forced, physically or emotionally, to support and even perpetuate the bad.  Watching Todd lose himself in an attempt to deny feeling and protect himself was painful for me.  It is a credit to Ness as a writer that I am so involved in the mental anguish of the main characters.  I find both frustration and honesty reading about good people participating in evil actions in the name of war.  As has been stated multiple times in both books in the series: War makes monsters of men.

While that portion of the book pained me, the relationship between Todd and Viola is both heartrending and hope inspiring.  Reading (hearing) Todd's noise whisper, say, or shout "Viola!" gives me the chills.  The depth of their love for each other and their reliance upon each other is touching in a way devoid of the typical over-the-top mushiness of many a young adult novel.

While The Knife of Never Letting Go saw Todd as the narrator of events, in The Ask and the Answer, Todd and Viola alternate roles as narrator.  While the first book was primarily action based, the second seemed a bit more thoughtful, and having the dual voices in the text allowed for this greater depth.  Readers are privy to the internal thoughts of the two main characters, revealing both more information about the narrator and about the other.  This tactic also gave Ness the opportunity to explore both sides of the war as we see Viola and Todd participating in opposing forces.

So now I have to play the waiting game.  The third book in the series, Monsters of Men, apparently doesn't come out until late summer or fall.  I had difficulty waiting three days to read the beginning of The Ask and the Answer; I'm unsure how I'm going to handle waiting so very very long to read the final installment.

Memorable Scene:  Todd has been overseeing Spackle, being used as slaves, when he sees a bomb coming at them.  He screams at the Spackle to run, and even puts himself in harm's way to save one.  Despite this self-sacrificing act, the Spackle is not grateful.  And I can't blame him.

Memorable Quote:  'You want to see it as simple good and evil my girl...The world doesn't work that way. Never has, never will."

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

Rhapsody in Books; Bart's Bookshelf; Becky's Book Reviews; things mean a alot; Jenny's Books;

Question:  When the third book comes out, I'm thinking I will re-read the first two before reading the third due to the long time between.  Do you guys do this?

FTC Disclosure:  I bought it after searching in multiple book stores and racking up miles on my grandparents' car in a town in Florida I didn't know my way around.

Challenges100+ Reading Challenge, YA Reading Challenge, 42 Challenge, Sci-Fi Challenge


  1. Part of me wishes I could read this. The other part of me is glad I gave it away.

  2. This series is really high on my list, based on the two billion bloggers that have raved about it. I'm feeling just a tad overwhelmed at the moment with everything I need/want to read, but I have no doubts that I will get to these at some point. (I'm glad you were finally able to track down a copy of the book! I'm sure it was torture!)

  3. Great comment about how the author gets you involved in the mental anguish of the characters - that is so true!

    I don't know if I think Viola feels the same way about Todd as he does about her. There is always the mysterious Lee factor!

    I suppose we'll see in book 3...

  4. I can't tell you how many emotions I went through whilst reading this one! have fear and anticipation in equal measures about the wait for book 3!

    (And Jill, how could you say such a thing? Lee? *shudders* :p)

  5. Amanda - Sometimes books just don't grab you, and there is so much out there to read, why waste time on something that just isn't for you?

    Sandy - I get overwhelmed with my to read list too, but I've worked out this strange spontaneous reading system that takes into account my to read list and of course kills my pocketbook.

    Rhapsody - Ahhhh, the Lee factor. I try to ignore it. :)

    Darren - It is definitely an emotional plot, and I agree about the anticipation and anxiety over book 3!


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