The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness

Summary from Goodreads:

Part two of the literary sci-fi thriller follows a boy and a girl who are caught in a warring town where thoughts can be heard — and secrets are never safe.

Reaching the end of their flight in THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, Todd and Viola did not find healing and hope in Haven. They found instead their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss, waiting to welcome them to New Prentisstown. There they are forced into separate lives: Todd to prison, and Viola to a house of healing where her wounds are treated. Soon Viola is swept into the ruthless activities of the Answer, while Todd faces impossible choices when forced to join the mayor’s oppressive new regime. In alternating narratives the two struggle to reconcile their own dubious actions with their deepest beliefs. Torn by confusion and compromise, suspicion and betrayal, can their trust in each other possibly survive?


I have read The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in this trilogy, a little less than a year ago. But I still remember Todd and Viola. I still remember how much of themselves were still children. But in this second installment, they have grown tremendously despite the fact that only a brief amount of time has elapsed since Todd and Viola were thrown together, from the moment he left Prentisstown and her ship crash landed. In The Knife, these two were a formidable team, always side by side; but this time they were separated. Still their determination and their devotion to each other was there perhaps all the more intensified. 

Todd was held captive by The Mayor while Viola got caught up in Mistress Coyle's rebel group. Here I got to see them separately. I got to see how much strength they have and how much they have grown. Their age betrays them. Perhaps its the circumstances that forces these children to grow up quickly, as with most dystopian literature that I read. The children in Hunger Games and The Giver comes to mind. It never ceases to amaze me how much these children can bear. Todd and Viola were not exceptions. 

Lee and Davy Prentiss were also memorable characters for me. Lee because he has that kind hearted, boy-next-door vibe and I might just have a literary crush on him. Hee hee. Davy because his character took a 360 degress turn. He shot Viola in the first installment of the series and he's the mayor's son, so in my mind, that makes him one of the bad guys. But here what I saw was a boy. A son to a father who doesn't give a crap about him, ashamed of him even. When all his life was devoted to pleasing him. It was painful seeing him treated that way. But his relationship with Todd was his bright spot and it was one of those unlikely friendships that suprised me. 

The plot kind of reminded me of Suzanne Collin's Mockingjay, with a tyrant government on one side, led by Mayor Prentiss and a rebel group on the other, led by Mistress Coyle. Todd and Viola were then caught up in a war between these two forces. Originally all these two had in mind was to find each other and escape, they didn't really care much for anything else. To be Todd and Viola against the world again. But it took them longer to find each other and in that amount of time that they were separated, they began to see the bigger picture. They began to care more and more about other people. Innocent people, people who lost loved ones, people who are good and kind. They saw the destruction of war and they ultimately made a choice to stay. "We are the choices we make." This quote pretty much plays a huge part in the plot. 

This book is also more grissly and darker than the first. Morality issues were thrown in, like torture and genocide, and as to whether the acts of violence is acceptable provided that the end goal would be peace, about sacrificing a few for the sake of the whole. Much of the excitement also stems from the fact that I could never be truly sure which are the bad guys and which are the good guys, which are truth and which are lies.

Much of the questions I had from the first book were also answered here, like those regarding the Spackle and the history of Prentisstown and Haven as well as a little about the nature of Noise.  

This is a lovely follow up to the first installment and I am looking forward to the last book in the trilogy, Monsters of Men. Especially since the ending of this one, just like the first book, is a cliffhanger. It's really bad of Patrick Ness to torment readers this way but he is still brilliant. :)

The Ask and The Answer is the Winner of the 2009 Costa Children's Book Award. This is my 10th entry for The Award Winning Books Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books.


  1. Davy is quite the surprise to me, too. i liked him in the end.

    Yay for Chaos Walking Trilogy! :)

    1. I liked him too. So I'm quite heartbroken when Patrick Ness did what he did to him in this book. :)

      I second that "Yay!" for Chaos Walking. I can't wait to read Monsters of Men.


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