Reviews for Ask and the Answer

Booklist Reviews 2009 August #1
*Starred Review* Ness brings the frantic chase of The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008) to a screeching halt at the beginning of this second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Todd and Viola have finally arrived in the town of Haven, only to find that their pursuers, an army led by the zealot Mayor Prentiss, have beat them there and set up a harsh new regime. Alternating chapters from both Todd's and Viola's points of view follow the two as they are separated and implicated into the schemes of both the oppressors and the resistance, both sides defined by the atrocities they perpetrateto achieve their goals. What results is an amalgamation of society's most brutal facets--fascism, terrorism, torture, ethnic cleansing--with all kinds of relevance to our world, even if the story is set on a made-up planet warring for identity as it awaits an influx of new settlers. While this book suffers from some of the same frustrating plot holes found in the first, Ness more than makes up for it with a relentless flurry of heavy-hitting issues, hinging on appeasement, complicity, and maintaining one's morality in the face of impossible choices. And the concept of Noise, so brilliantly conceived and executed in the first novel, is given even more depth as it becomes both a tool and a weapon. A notch less exhilirating than the first, this book is far weightier and no less stunning to read. If Knife provided the cut, this follow-up provides the fester. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #5
In The Knife of Never Letting Go (rev. 11/08), set on an alien world where the native "Noise" germ makes thoughts audible (except those of women, who are immune), Todd escaped from the brutal all-male village of Prentisstown with Viola, the orphaned daughter of scouts sent ahead from a settler ship. But when they reached their destination, the peaceful city of Haven, they found that their enemies had beaten them there. While Todd is imprisoned and put to work by Mayor Prentiss, a master manipulator who's secured a cure for Noise and, with it, Haven, Viola is placed in an all-female house of healing, the head of which forms a resistance group called the Answer and starts blowing up strategic targets. Now-President Prentiss forms the Ask in response, and the conflict escalates. Ness takes his characters to new, dark places -- particularly Todd, who, believing Viola first a hostage and then a traitor, colludes with Prentiss, helping him brand first the Spackle (the enslaved indigenous population) and then the women of the settlement in horrifying scenes that test the boundaries of young adult literature. For Todd to be remotely sympathetic by book's end is truly an achievement, and the struggle to reconcile his supposed innocence despite the "blood on his hands" with his unforgivable actions will provoke as much thought as the depictions of slavery, genocide, terrorism, and torture. After so much incident, Todd essentially ends where he began, and, faced with a new peril (and a new cliffhanger) at the climax, he makes a decision that will have most readers groaning in frustration. Still, the series continues to develop a fascinating world, and its fully formed characters and conflicts draw attention to difficult issues with a rare, unblinking candor. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 August #2
Ness delivers a leaner, meaner narrative in the highly anticipated sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008). At the end of Book One, Todd and Viola found themselves at the mercy of Mayor Prentiss, with Viola near death. Now Todd is forced to join the Mayor's oppressive regime, while Viola is saved and then tutored by the female Healers, led by powerful Mistress Coyle. When the Mayor makes clear his distrust of women, who are impervious to the planet's Noise germ, Mistress Coyle resurrects The Answer, a former terrorist group, which attempts to bomb the Mayor's ruthless Askers into submission. Meanwhile, Todd and Viola are being turned against each other, as each leader tries to persuade the teens that his/her cause is just. Provocative questions about gender bias, racism, the meaning of war and the price of peace are thoughtfully threaded throughout a breathless, often violent plot peopled with heartbreakingly real characters. Newbies will need the first volume to understand this one, and fans are given only a momentary respite as the author continues his tradition of cliffhanger endings. (Science fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 August #5

This grim and beautifully written sequel to Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go picks up where its predecessor left off and will have readers racing to its painful conclusion. Having escaped from the dystopian, all-male Prentisstown, teenagers Todd and Viola have fled to the city of Haven, only to discover that Prentisstown's mayor, a powerful and charismatic sociopath, has gotten there first, intent on controlling the entire planet. Separated, the friends are caught up on opposite sides of a horrific, morally ambiguous civil war, with Todd coming close to madness. (Viola later reminds Todd, who has undertaken some shocking and cruel responsibilities while working with the mayor, "We all fall but that's not what matters. What matters is picking yourself up again.") This superb novel, which ends with a gripping cliffhanger that sets up the third Chaos Walking book, uses a brilliant cast of well-developed characters and its singular setting and premise to present a provocative examination of the nature of evil and humanity. This is among the best YA science fiction novels of the year. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 January

Gr 9 Up--Todd Hewitt, 13, is locked in a tower in New Prentisstown, a space colony, and separated from Viola, after the dramatic cliff-hanger in The Knife of Never Letting Go (Candlewick, 2008). Tracked down by the manipulative mayor of the all-male community he escaped, he is unaware that Viola is also under guard and recouping nearby. The noise that clatters through men's minds makes it difficult for Todd to keep any secrets about his intentions to find Viola and accompany her on a mission to contact her people, who are on their way to colonize this unsettled and fractured new world. The previous war, which killed most of the women and made slaves of the aboriginal alien Spackles, has pitted the survivors against one another. The "Answer," comprised of women and a few men who lost daughters and mothers in the war, come to blows with the "Ask," the mayor's group of fundamentalist men and their Spackle slaves. The story breaks into alternating narratives, in different fonts, as Todd is forcefully commissioned into the "Ask" and Viola into the "Answer." Their quest to reunite will keep readers focused on their relationship and moral motivation in this graphically violent and dystopian world. Lacking in this episode are lighter moments shared by Todd and his dog, who has been replaced by a less personable horse. Science fiction lovers will be looking for the next installment in this fast-paced and imaginative series.--Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

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