A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{October 8, 2011}   The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Plot: When Todd and Viola reached Haven, they didn’t find the safety they had hoped for. It is now New Pretiss Town and occupied by the man they had run so far to escape. To protect Viola, Todd is forced to join the mayor’s army and perform horrific acts as an officer of the Ask. Meanwhile Viola escapes with the female resistance, known as the Answer, who aim to take down the new president. Only the leader of the Answer may not be any more trustworthy than mayor Prentiss.

In the Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd and Viola were constantly on the run; their lives were in danger and they couldn’t trust anyone. And then the book finished on a horrific cliffhanger. It couldn’t possibly get any worse. Or so I thought. But in this book, Ness steps it up again and brings us to an even more frightening end. I’m both afraid and impatient to listen to the final book.

If the first book was about the horrors of war, The Ask and the Answer is about occupation, dictatorship and resistance. Todd and Viola are played against each other by opposing by equally machiavellic figures. The book looks at the horrors people will commit in these situations, why and how it changes them. It’s all very visceral and difficult, both for the characters and the readers. And Ness actually manages to do something I never imagined he could: he made me feel bad for Davy Prentiss, the murderous bully of the first book.

The Ask and the Answer has two POV characters (Todd and Viola) which adds a great deal of depth to the narrative. In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Viola’s feelings and motives were somewhat opaque. This was narratively important as Todd didn’t know how to interact with someone whose thoughts he couldn’t hear. But Viola is a great character, strong and conflicted who makes difficult choices and I was glad to see her view of the world as well.

The audiobook version has a narrator for each POV character, each narrating the chapters from their respective POV. Both are very good narrators but it was occasionally jarring that the same characters, especially the POV characters, had different voices depending on who was narrating. That small detail aside, this is a great audiobook performed with real feeling.

Challenges: Futuristic/Sci-Fi Challenge (8)


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