The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #2)

Part two of the literary sci-fi thriller follows a boy and a girl who are caught in a warring town where thoughts can be heard — and secrets are never safe.

Reaching the end of their flight in THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, Todd and Viola did not find healing and hope in Haven. They found instead their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss, waiting to welcome them to New Prentisstown. There they are forced into separate lives: Todd to prison, and Viola to a house of healing where her wounds are treated. Soon Viola is swept into the ruthless activities of the Answer, while Todd faces impossible choices when forced to join the mayor’s oppressive new regime. In alternating narratives the two struggle to reconcile their own dubious actions with their deepest beliefs. Torn by confusion and compromise, suspicion and betrayal, can their trust in each other possibly survive?

SPOILERS FOR FIRST BOOK AND THIS BOOK

This book somehow managed to be even more awesome than the first book, which I didn’t even know was possible, but it was. This post is more rambling than usual, but if you’ve read the book it should make sense.

Mayor Prentiss is more front and center as the villain this time, and he’s a really creepy villain. Outwardly, he’s a really ordinary guy who’s a sociable people-type person. But he knows how to manipulate people, how to use honey rather than vinegar to make people believe what he wants them to believe. And his side of the story. But what is his side of the story!? What really happened with the spackle? This book and this series are full of grays; there are no black and whites and it is so unclear what the right thing is, which side to support, who’s the greater threat and the greater villain.

And Davy! He actually became a human being! Gah, Patrick Ness is SO GOOD with characters because the changes are so slow and gradual that if you blink you’ll miss them, but even if he doesn’t fully change sides, he realizes things are wrong. That his father isn’t a good man. And that he’s sorry for what he’s done. And then the dies! Just as he was getting to be a good person! I mean yeah, it made sense story-wise, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t yelling at the book in despair.

I was so happy that Viola was given her own POV because we got to see how awesome she is first-hand.  She’s immediately separated from Todd, just after she knifed a man to death and was shot by Davy and has to figure out her way in this strange new world where Mayor Prentiss is in control. Now the women of the town have congregated to re-form their previous terrorist group, the Answer, to bomb portions of town to force Mayor Prentiss to capitulate and surrender. Except Mistress Coyle is about as ruthless as Mayor Prentiss and willing to sacrifice anyone, no matter who they are, in order to achieve her goals. Viola is caught in the middle, willing to help the women after the horrific things Mayor Prentiss and his soldiers have done, but aware that Mistress Coyle is going too far and desperate to find and save Todd above everything else. Viola is just as confused as Todd as to what the hell is going on, but no matter what she’ll call out anyone, including Mistress Coyle, for being the violence they’ve chosen to inflict. Not only that, but she pushes herself to the breaking point when it comes to doing what needs to be done, and that’s why she’s such an amazing character.

Todd, oh my god Todd. I’m not even sure if I can love him anymore because he does such horrible things. Initially ordered to guard and keep the re-enslaved spackle in line, eventually coming to hate them and treating them as animals, and then shutting off all his feelings so he can learn how to torture people and perform the equivalent of branding on hundreds of people – it’s obscene what he does. But it’s Todd! And he’s hurting so much! The only way he can escape all the pain he’s feeling from knowing he failed at every single attempt he made to resist and escape, battling with doubt over whether Viola has fully joined the Answer and abandoned him completely… it’s difficult stuff. There’s still that gray area because Todd knows exactly how horrible his actions are, continues to do them, but there’s still the reality that he will be punishing himself for the rest of his life for what he’s done, just as when he killed that spackle all the way back in the first book. And that is why Patrick Ness is amazing. Because he had Todd transformed into this world’s version of an SS soldier, but I still cared so fucking much about him and wanted him to find himself again and fight back.

Also why I love Patrick Ness is, of course, Todd and Viola together. I do not have the words to say how amazing their relationship is and all the feelings I have about it. By this point, they have become each other’s conscience and each other’s soul. They continue to look for and find and save each other over and over again. Even when Todd confesses all the atrocious crimes he’s committed, Viola reminds him of what he’d told her after she’d killed Aaron – we all fall down. What matters is if and how we choose to pick ourselves back up again. If one of them dies at the end of the third book, I will be FURIOUS. I WILL OPEN THE GATES OF HELL AND FIRE WILL RAIN UPON THE LAND FROM THE FORCE OF MY WRATH. And holy shit, the war is going to be fearsome and bloody and oh so very conflicting as Todd and Viola figure out what’s the right thing to be fighting for.

Just like the previous book, this one also ends with a humongous cliff-hanger and the belief that there is no hope whatsoever and everyone is going to die. Whether that’ll be the case remains to be seen, but oh my god, this world is going to explode. What the aftermath will look like remains to be seen.

Disclosure – library

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One thought on “The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #2)

  1. Pingback: Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness | Alive and Narrating

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