Tag Archives: chaos walking series

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Todd and Viola have finally reached Haven, but it wasn’t nearly what they’d expected. Before stepping more than a few feet into the town, they’re being separated – Viola to the woman’s houses of healing and Todd to the Mayor’s headquarters. As Viola is struggling to conform to her new life as a healer and Todd is forced to tend to the enslaved Spackle, two factions are forming, and they won’t end up on the same side. With both of them under the tight manipulative thumb of the new Mayor, will Todd and Viola be able to find each other? Will Viola be able to warn the rest of the incoming settlers in time? And of the Ask and the Answer, who are the good guys? The second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy is somehow even more chaotic as everything and everyone is at stake and Todd and Viola continue to make the difficult choices that define them and affect all those around them.

Since The Knife of Never Letting Go offered little closure, I haven’t been much more eager to read a sequel. Admittedly it’s difficult for me to refrain from comparison, but The Ask and the Answer keeps up the running pace, anything-goes plot twists, excellent characterizations and moral questioning of it’s predecessor while providing a new, fresh story which is told from the alternating perspectives of Todd and Viola. Though it’s definitely hard to see them apart, it’s harder to see their situations go from bad to worse – and when you can’t think it could get even worse – it does. Appeasement, totalitarianism, terrorism, genocide, torture, you name it, it probably occurs somewhere in the narrative. While unsurprisingly dark and grim, this book isn’t all despair and continues to challenge the answers to the hard questions and in doing so touch upon universal themes such as morality, love, and loyalty. I was continually stumped by how frequently I expected straight black and white, good and bad choices for the characters when there just isn’t, Todd and Viola no exception. Discovering that your heroes are flawed and the villains capable of redemption however just makes you love them all the more. Again, Patrick Ness’ up-in-the-air-ending, tight plotting, brisk pace, and exquisite character development has left me clamoring for the third book. Unfortunately this time around I have to wait a year.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Okay. *catching breath* I didn’t see it coming but this book amazed me and I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Or at least talk to someone who’d read it. But alas, there was no one. (Sad.) So I’ll have to settle for recommending it as ardently and enthusiastically as possible. Will you go out and get the book (or at least read the rest of this review) if I say that it was seriously astounding and literally breathtaking? No? Well, that’s okay (I guess). I will also be the first to admit that it may not be for everyone but I personally loved it and am pleased I read it after my initial bias and misgivings.

Although he is the only boy in Prentisstown, Todd Hewitt’s childhood on New World has seemed normal enough. His mother and father died shortly after his birth, but their friends Ben and Cillian raised him with both love and discipline. According to town law Todd will be a man at age 13, and he’s got a month to go. But becoming a man does not mean he will have the chance to meet girls and marry, nor will it bring any change to the Noise or heard thoughts of everyone around him. Because there are no women in Prentisstown, and hearing everyone’s thoughts is the only thing he knows. On the bright side there can be no secrets, or could there? It only takes one day down at the swamp, an improbable blip of complete silence, and a smidgen of the truth and suddenly Todd is running for his life.

I first saw this book on the Amazon top ten YA booklist at the end of last year and I remember thinking its premise was interesting before briefly considering adding it to my TBR pile and then turning it down without thinking twice. No women? Really?? And told from a boy’s point-of-view? It was not looking promising. Besides that premise was just screaming ‘I have a creepily weird, futuristic sci-fi twist you could see coming from a mile’ – and I’m far from a hardcore science fiction fan. O sweet first impressions. When I finally decided to give it a go it only took one of Patrick Ness‘s short chapters and I was hooked. It is so fast-paced, suspenseful, and thought-provoking that it really did take my breath away and I read chapter after cliffhanging chapter compulsively, palms sweaty until BAM! mid-scene, mid-dialogue, mid-sentence during the worst of worst case scenarios I reached THE END, the mammoth of all cliffhangers. (Again I say) Really?? Stunned but thanking the gods for my fortuitous luck because the sequel is already out.

But seriously, it’s difficult to think of anything I didn’t like about The Knife of Never Letting Go. While the story is darker and more mature than expected, it also has a heart, and I found myself close to tears a few times. Todd has to make some hard split-second decisions, but he’s not alone. The concept of hearing everyone’s thoughts all the time like a constant buzz is also fully explored. While there are truly no lies, truth can easily be blurred in a society with supposedly no secrets and there are ways to find privacy, if only temporarily. Noise also extends to the animals on the planet, and what sheep, crocodiles, and Todd’s dog Manchee have to say by their thoughts resonates with reality as well as prompting both head shaking and laughter from the reader. The phonetic spelling was a little jarring at first but it quickly became readable and brought an enjoyable flavor to Todd and his world. As a visual person I’m a complete sucker for the play with type setting (font type, size, and spacing). But it added dimension to the Noise and differentiation between it and the spoken word besides being just fun and different – which is often enough for easily-pleased me. Overall the innovative world and ingenious plot make this book an intense and riveting read. Go, buyorborrow, read! Just make sure you have The Ask and the Answer on hand when you’re done.