Well, well, well. I’m not even sure where to start with this one. It’s so good that I now have the problem of trying to find the appropriate words to articulate why! Good is just not, well, good enough y’know?
We pick Todd and Viola back up (hi guys, I missed you) in Haven. Viola is suffering severe injuries after being shot by Davy and Todd is tied to a chair in abandoned church, which is…not fantastic. But things are about to get a whole lot worse, because Haven has been re-christened ‘New Prentisstown’ and the Mayor has taken a bit of a fancy to being called President Prentiss. Ah.
Patrick Ness employs a risky split person narrative strategy in this installment, so that instead of just reading from Todd’s POV, you also read from Viola’s. Split person narrative has been the death of many a good YA series because it often results in your original protagonist’s voice being completely lost and/or muddying the waters of the plot. Breathe a big sigh of relief though chaps, because this is certainly not the case here. Instead, Ness uses the split to draw us further into the complex connection between Todd and Viola, as well as allowing us to see the unfolding chaos from two interesting perspectives.
The Ask and The Answer isn’t quite as pacey as its predecessor and I must admit that I found certain patches towards the beginning of the book a little slow. I can forgive it though, because it knocks you out with its sheer importance. The chapters explode (no pun intended, ha) with observations on nearly every global issue going: war, genocide, dictatorship, feminism, racism, xenophobia and terrorism, to name a few. The new characters are again, well drawn, with Mistress Coyle being a particular favourite because of the questions that her actions pose to both the reader and Viola.
What makes someone good or evil? Is an individual always to blame for their actions, or does society influence the choices that they make? These are the difficult questions that underpin the plot, and Patrick Ness is an author with a knack for blurring the lines between right and wrong until all you can do is question what you would do in the most terrible of situations. Is one person worth more to you than a thousand? Would you kill for for a cause that you truly believed in? This is the sort of novel that makes you question everything.
- Author: Patrick Ness
- Release date: May 2009
- Publisher: Walker
- Pages: 536
- Rating: 5/5
- In three words: Big, bold dystopia.