Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: The Ask and the Answer

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You never quite know what you're going to get when you open up a sequel. In the case of The Knife of Never Letting Go, the ending was such a cliffhanger that you almost had to read the second book before you could properly review the first. (Sort of like how you don't know what you scored with a strike until you've bowled the next two frames. Look at that--I just managed to incorporate bowling into a book review. It's been that sort of a day.)

In any case, I've now read the sequel to Patrick Ness's original, and it was just as good as the first, maybe better. One of the things I liked so much about the first was how well Ness handled his character. You see things from Todd's point of view so clearly, and the choices he has to make all have huge implications, but those choices aren't handled cavalierly or from an author-moving-chess-pieces-around sort of approach. Todd makes the decisions Todd would make. Always. The second book extends that, involving Viola's POV, as well. Once again, Viola stays just as consistent as Todd.

Throughout the book, the two make hard choices. They have to deal with issues that have no clear right or wrong answers--heavy issues that I was genuinely interested to see how they reacted to them. In fact, one of the criticisms I've heard of the first book is that it's too much of a boy's book--Todd's POV is so strong that it can alienate girl readers. This might be the case, but if that's so, then the sequel should solve some of that, since Todd's viewpoint is now only half the book. Viola has her own unique way of looking at things, and the views are distinct and each handled well.

Again, I don't want to delve into spoilers. The basics are that Todd and Viola find themselves caught between two violently opposed factions, and they each take sides as they try to cope with what's at play. Some themes include what makes it possible for a tyrant to come to power, how is the best way to deal with tyranny, and where is the line where resistance to tyranny becomes just as bad as the tyranny itself. Deep, but action packed. Suffice it to say that it's a great book. If you liked the first, you'll like this one. If you were so so about the first (but finished it), definitely pick this one up and give it a shot.

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