Title: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult | Science Fiction > Dystopian
Synopsis: Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…
Final Rating: ★★★★★
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Let me start off by saying that this book is so much better than the first one. Let me now say that I gave the first book four and half stars as well, so you can now efficiently calculate how much I adored this book.
Patrick Ness is a phenomenal writer. He knows how to write a book full of emotion and tears, as well as laughs and philosophy. The characters are nuanced and beautifully rounded. The story is complex, and even though it’s slow-paced, you never get bored, because of how invested you are in the world and the characters.
This book shows the brutal realities of civil war, and although it’s a dystopian novel and focuses on something that most of us can’t even think about, it deals with issues like dirty politics, complicated leaders, slavery and prisoners of war. Even though it’s a science fiction novel, a lot of the things Ness discusses have been (and still are) rampant in our world. Because of this reason, because of how beautifully everything is constructed in the novel, I hesitate in categorizing this trilogy as a young adult trilogy. It is truly a trilogy for all ages, a trilogy that is equally as challenging to a child as it is fascinating to an adult.
The plot isn’t particularly fast-paced. In fact, there’s deep lull between the action that might bore some. For someone who enjoys psychology, who enjoys how the action affects a character, I didn’t mind this at all. This “lull” that I’m talking about is full of fantastic character development. We get to see the consequences of the war on daily life and the characters. We really get a feel of the thoughts and actions of characters, and this “lull” facilitates the novel more than it hinders it.
Other than that, the story had lots of twists and turns. I was expecting some things, and others took me completely by surprise. There are two very clear sides in this novel. Two leaders, each with a common goal: peace. Or is it a common goal? Each with a different agenda to reach their goal. Each corrupt in his/her own way. Each nuanced. Both phenomenal characters- intriguing and fascinating beyond belief. Our characters are torn between these leaders, and since the perspective jumps between Viola’s and Todd’s, the reader is torn too. I genuinely didn’t know what the “right side” was until I got to the last hundred or so pages. Even now, I’m not too sure. Everything was so nuanced. Nothing was black-and-white, and it made the read very enjoyable, very colorful but very challenging as well.
And oh… that cliff-hanger. Patrick Ness, why would you do this to me?
I thought the character development was well-done in this one. I liked Todd Hewitt in the first book, but I grew to love and admire and respect him in this novel. He becomes a well-rounded, multi-dimensional character. He’s strong-willed and has a burning passion for what he wants. He’s absolutely fearless when he has to be. But, he’s not the hero we are so used to seeing. He has some very big flaws that make things very difficult for other characters. His short temper, his sensitivity, his tendency to give into his weaknesses- all very human, very real flaws that give his character extreme depth and rawness.
I didn’t care much for Viola’s character in the first book, and I was conflicted about her in this one, but in a good way. I thought that her character grew a lot in this novel. Although in some places I didn’t like her as a person, I understood why she did some things. Ness has the ability to make me stand in a character’s shoes and think about what I would have done, and almost always, I would do the same thing the character does. Viola is brave and feisty, but she’s also impulsive and sometimes a little obtuse. I’m excited to see what Ness has in store for her character.
One character that took me completely by surprise was Davy Prentiss Jr. Okay, so I’m sure everybody despised Davy in the first book. I did too, but things took a turn in this book. Davy matures, and his perception of situations and the world around him changes drastically. I found myself loving his character. He gave me a very Draco Malfoy-ish vibe, because here we have a young boy trying his utmost best to make his father proud. Of course, Davy has done crueler things than Malfoy, but the vibe was the same. His character development took me completely by surprise, and I loved it.
Mayor Prentiss was a fascinating character. He reminded me a lot of the Governor from the Walking Dead, but much more persuasive. I found myself under his spell a lot of the times. Perhaps one of the most complex antagonists I’ve read in a long time.
I found Patrick Ness’s writing style very fascinating. Most of the time (especially when it comes to Todd’s perspective), Ness writes very casually. Not only that, but informally with tons of spelling and grammatical mistakes (intentional, yes). But they don’t bother me. This writing style just adds layers and layers to a character. He is brilliant at setting up an atmosphere. He’s brilliant at making his readers think. He is a phenomenal writer, and I can’t say anything less about him. If Patrick Ness wrote an ode to a freaking onion, I would read it and love it.
Would I recommend? Yes. I mean, I can’t recommend it enough. This trilogy is Brilliant. Yes, with a capital B.
Would I re-read? Definitely.