The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Author: Patrick Ness Website|Twitter
Published: 4 May 2009 (Walker)
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Source: Borrowed from library
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
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...
I absolutely adored The Knife of Never Letting Go which I read last year and I've been meaning to read this book for ages. And after finishing The Ask and the Answer I'm wondering why I left it so long! The story picks up with Todd in the hands of Mayor Prentiss, as war threatens to break out across the New World.
Woah. I'm still recovering from reading this one. I've literally just finished it as I write this and I feel like I've been on one hell of a rollercoaster! But let's start at the beginning. The book starts out with Todd tied up and being questioned by Mayor Prentiss, which was a fantastic way to start. There was no build up, you were straight back into the action and I loved that. It picks up pretty much where the last book left off which made it really easy to get back into the swing of things. I had no trouble picking up the story again after taking so long between books.
The Ask and the Answer is told from both Todd and Viola's perspective. It worked so well because they were seperated at the beginning at the two of them are wrapped up in different situations so you got to see what was happening on both sides. It was also utterly heartbreaking because each of them was worrying about the other one the whole time. I really felt that connection between them and their concern for each other was so sweet and innocent.
The book takes on some pretty brutal issues, particularly focusing on the outbreak of war. There were so many insights into those realities from the fighting to the casualties, to the moral dilemmas faced by those involved. It was incredibly well done. Todd and Viola both get swept along with the fighting and it was really interesting to see them question both what was happening around them and question their own actions. There were so many times where the lines between right and wrong became blurred and that made for some really intense and at times uncomfortable scenes, but in a way that really made you think and question what was happening yourself. It's certainly one of those books where certain moments stay with you!
There was also the matter of all the underhand tactics and efforts on both sides of the fighting to spy on each other. I seriously had no idea who to trust. I was suspicious of almost everybody and then those characters I wasn't suspicious of turned out to be ones I should have been keeping an eye on! I was completely gripped and the twists and turns kept coming, and none of them I ever saw coming.
It was really fascinating seeing the world the book takes place in explored a bit more. There's more focus on the Noise and how people are starting to deal with it. There were also a focus on the divide between Spackle and the people which I thought was very interesting from a moral point of view. Some real issues were brought up there and some of the scenes were quite tough to read. I also liked the exploration of the fight between women and men which was made more interesting by the fact we got Todd and Viola's individual experiences of both sides.
Both characters have really strong plots that ran alongside each other and complimented each other perfectly. The pacing was snappy and despite the length of the book, it felt like the pages flew by. I would find myself rushing home from work or wherever I was just so I could get back and read some more. Once again the unique writing style that stems from Todd's voice made for a fantastic reading experience.
I waited far too long to read The Ask and the Answer so I've gone and put a hold on the next book straight away so I don't have to wait! The cliffhanger ending of this book was absolute torture and I need to know what happens! The final chapters had me completely riveted. This was just as good if not better than The Knife of Never Letting Go.
What to read next: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, the final book in the Chaos Walking trilogy
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