The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Book 2 of Chaos Walking)

Released September 2009.

Starting up exactly where the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, left off, readers are once again launched directly into the story of Todd and Viola.  Todd has been captured by Mayor Prentiss and regains consciousness as he is being interrogated.  Viola has disappeared after being shot.  Todd finds himself in the city he fought the entire first book to find, but it has been overtaken and surrendered to Mayor Prentiss without a fight.  Now Todd and readers must navigate the ever-changing power of the community, heroes who are villains, villains who are heroes, and some who are both at the same time. 

The complexity of this novel is awe inspiring.  Yet the story manages to remain unencumbered and move forward at a brisk pace.  The tension of the novel will have readers either unable to put it down or forced to put it down with shaking hands.  It is truly a gripping piece of writing.  As with the first book, it is also a very dark story.  Here torture is explored very completely, not hidden from the reader.  A risky choice for a YA novel, but one that definitely pays off.

In the two main characters, Ness has created heroes with faults.  They are both wonderfully drawn and complete characters.  Even the villains of the story are complicated and well developed.  It is this complexity that makes the book work so well.  As more and more is revealed, the story shifts and ripples into something different and new. 

Set aside time when you start this novel.  It is impossible to not think about when you are not reading it and definitely could be devoured in a single sitting.  Enjoy!  And then join me in eagerly awaiting the third.  While you are waiting, check out the short story on BookTrust that is about Viola before she lands on the planet.

(Reviewed from galley copy received at ALA Annual Conference)