The Ask and the Answer
Chaos Walking, Book Two
by Patrick Ness
Warning: This review is slightly spoilerish to the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, so if you haven’t read that book, I recommend you stop now and read it first. I loved the first book, but qualified my review with a caution about the ending. Having read the second book, I can now give the series an unqualified recommendation. It’s an outstanding series, and one with a lot of teen appeal. My only warning is that bad things happen, and this isn’t a series for sensitive readers.
The Ask and the Answer was an unexpected surprise. I knew it would be good – I think I hardly even breathed while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go – but I didn’t expect it to go in the direction that it did. The Knife of Never Letting Go was one long, breathless flight, with Todd and Viola alternately running from and battling the forces from Prentisstown. The cliffhanger ending led you to believe that the second book would be more of the same. And while The Ask and the Answer picks up where* The Knife of Never Letting Go* left off, Ness turns everything upside down and forces you to question your assumptions and look at everything and everyone in a new light.
I don’t want to say too much and ruin the book, but* The Ask and the Answer* finds Todd and Viola separated, and at times, on opposite sides. They are each, in their own way, doing what they can to stand up for what’s right, but right and wrong aren’t always clear, and it’s hard to know who, or what, to believe.
The Ask and the Answer is a deep, powerful, and sometimes disturbing book, which asks such questions as, do the ends ever justify the means? And if one side is evil, does that make the opposition good? There are echoes of the Holocaust, particularly in the treatment of the Spackle. The Ask and the Answer is as breathlessly unputdownable as The Knife of Never Letting Go, but it’s also a book that shakes you up and makes you think. It’s a book that I think will have strong appeal to teens.
*Guest Review by David
My 14-year-old son David also reviewed this book. Here is his review:
Oh, my gosh. Was it even possible for this book to top it’s predecessor? Yup. If anything, this book is even more well written than The Knife of Never Letting Go, and that’s saying a lot. The characters are all great, from the villains, to the heros, to those who just aren’t sure what they are. And the plot? The plot is the best part. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s almost impossible to put down The Ask and The Answer after you start. This book has quickly risen up my list of favorite books, along with The Knife. I’ve already reread them both twice, and I still can’t get enough!
Whereas the first book ended leaving the reader with a feeling of defeat, this book, even though it has no less of a climactic ending, gives you a better feeling. More “Aaaaaaaah!” as opposed to “Noooooo!” if you will. If you enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go, there’s no way you shouldn’t read this book.
The Ask and the Answer is a 2009 Cybils Nominee
Disclosures: we received a review copy of The Ask and the Answer from the publisher at my request. The links above are Amazon.com affiliate links, and if you purchase the books (or anything else) through those links, we’ll earn a very small percentage. None of these things influenced the reviews.