Saturday, August 31, 2013

Teen/YA Review: The Ask and the Answer

It usually takes me a while to find time to read a sequel, even when I really liked the first book, but I started The Ask and the Answer, book 2 in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, just a couple of weeks after finishing book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go, because I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. It worked out well because this was another long book to add to my Big Book Summer Challenge. This series continues to be fast-paced and exciting with a unique plot full of surprises.

I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read book 1 yet, so this will be tricky. Todd, the main character from the first book, is back. He and his friend Viola have been captured by their enemy, Mayor Prentiss, and separated. The Mayor tells Todd that the only way to keep Viola safe is to comply with everything he says and become a part of his new regime. Todd is constantly worried because he has no way of knowing if Viola is safe or even still alive, as he struggles to keep her safe while doing things for the Mayor that he knows are wrong.

With this page-turning beginning, the story continues against a backdrop of increasingly disturbing changes the Mayor is making to the society he is now ruling, and increasing violence against the Mayor’s regime by a rebel group called The Answer. Where The Knife of Never Letting Go had more of a post-apocalyptic feel to it, with Todd and Viola fleeing from their enemies, The Ask and the Answer is decidedly more dystopian, focusing in on the new society that the Mayor is trying to create. Of course, both books are still in the sci-fi realm, with plenty of action, adventure, and suspense thrown in. It’s an enticing combination.

Like the first novel in the trilogy, The Ask and the Answer is a very violent story, with similar fighting and combat but also plenty of bombing in the mix from the rebel group. However, this second book introduces lots of thought-provoking ethical questions, about war and violence, torture and terrorism. Ultimately, it investigates an age-old question that applies as well to our own world as it does to Todd and Viola's: do the ends justify the means?

The action and suspense build to a final stand-off between the rebels and the Mayor’s organization, but once again, the book ends with a surprising twist that left me yelling, “What?? No, not that!” Now, I can’t wait to read the third and final installment of this exciting trilogy.

519 pages, Candlewick Press


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