(this is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. there will be spoilers for the first book, "The Knife of Never Letting Go", but not for "The Ask and the Answer".
in a sentence or so: Todd and Viola finally arrive to Haven, only to discover that Mayor Prentiss has beat them there, and taken over the town. they are immediately separated, the town is divided over whether to trust the new leadership or to revolt...and then the bombing begins.
this book begins right where the first book left off. like, within seconds of the first book. Todd and Viola finally arrive at Haven, a place they weren't even sure actually existed, just to have their hope and their victory snatched out from beneath them and forced - yet again - into a painful, confusing existence. the antagonist of the first book, Mayor Prentiss, has made himself president of Haven and changed the name to New Prentisstown (a bit of an ego, that guy).
within moments of their capture, Todd and Viola are separated and questioned. told from first person perspective in alternating chapters between Viola and Todd, we learn that Todd is forced to work alongside Davy (president's son, shot Viola, not the best friend of Todd) managing the Spackle, the world's native population. Todd is faced with constant challenges to who he is, how he will treat these slaves, and what choices he will make in order to stay true to the man he has become and the man Viola knows him to be. however, being bullied by Davy and managing a silent work force come with extreme challenges...and that's on top of the loss of Viola and the uncertainty of what the heck is going on in New Prentisstown and what big plans the president seems to have for him.
Viola is sent to a healing center where Mistress Coyle cares for her, and begins to train her as a healer. during her time there, Viola learns that Mistress Coyle has a history of rebellion and fighting against unruly authority. when Mistress Coyle disappears and the bombings start in New Prentisstown, Viola not only connects the dots but is also pursued by Mistress Coyle from the outside of town. eventually, Viola chooses to join the resistance - called The Answer - and reluctantly leaves her broken Todd behind.
to describe this book as heavy and violent is an understatement. President Prentiss is relentless in his desire to rule, manipulate, and gain information from the people of New Prentisstown. however, he is sneaky and manipulative in his methods and seems to have mastered his Noise and the art of influencing other's Noise. perhaps that is why the President is able to slowly get away with segregating the men from the women, enforcing strict curfews, and - when things really start to heat up - banding the women with ID tags used for livestock and torturing potential informants.
the middle book of a series has a tough job - advancing the story, sustaining interest, and being a solid stand alone read. the ask and the answer does that and more. this is highly character driven, emotive, heavy, bursting with hard choices and broken characters where even the good guys aren't squeaky clean. there is a bit of a holocaust-ish feel with the numbering and the torture and the slow acceptance of the people in New Prentisstown to just accept the leadership to stay alive, but this alternate reality created by Ness is original and creative and his characters are so raw and so real that, despite being the middle book of a trilogy, i found myself learning new things about them and wanting to keep reading and keep learning more. the true intentions of others are difficult to determine and deliberately revealed.
i cannot WAIT for the conclusion of this series due to excellent writing, heartfelt characters, and a solid cliffhanger. may 2010 cannot come soon enough.
fave quote: "They treat me as if I'm a little dangerous. I'm slightly surprised to find I kind of like it" (Viola, 257)
fix er up: this is a big ole hunk of a book. at just over 500 pages, this was no easy quest. that may turn some readers off - but if you are into the kind of story that Ness weaves (and believe me, you would be) then clear your schedule and make this happen.
title: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking Triology, Book 2)
author: Patrick Ness
genre: Adventure, Edgy, Lisa's Faves, Dystopian