Monday, January 4, 2010

The Ask and the Answer by Ness

Ness, Patrick. The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, book 2), 519 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2009.
Rating : PG13 for violence (torture, hand-to-hand combat) and language (several g-d-'s and similar swear words, no f- words) ; G for sexual content.
Picking up exactly where the first book ends, this sequel tells the story, in alternating voices, of Todd and Viola who are separated as soon as they reach Haven: Todd to a tower prison where he's forced to work daily with the Major's son Davy over the town's imprisoned Spackle population, and Violet to a women's house of healing where she learns the art of healing and comes under the influence of Mistress Coyle, a leader from the Spackle War. Mayor Prentiss had arrived just before them and the town leaders surrendered hoping to avoid more bloodshed. Through their differing experiences, Todd and Violet have difficulty deciphering lies from truth. Though they swear to never leave each other, their attempts to reunite are repeatedly thwarted, and those around them constantly try to dissuade them from trusting each other. Prentiss' use of flattery, pain, and escalating levels of suppressed freedoms to secure his rule bare similarities to Nazi Germany and other regimes throughout our history. The most interesting parts to me were how Noise influenced these people's sense of self and relationships. The torture scenes are brutal, but there are fewer near misses than in the first book. Though the ending is a bit of a groaner, this story has a very interesting premise and engaging action, and I look forward to the next book.
HS - Essential.
Reviewed by P.K. Foster, teacher-librarian.

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