The Ask and the Answer  - Patrick Ness
The Ask and the Answerimmediately follows The Knife of Never Letting Go; Todd and Viola have reached the capital of haven, only to find it already under the control of Mayor Prentiss and his army. Todd is imprisoned and made to work for Prentiss; Viola, horribly wounded, finds herself in the Houses of Healing under the care and auspices of Mistress Coyle.

This is a much different story than Knife, where urgency was created through the pursuit of Todd and Viola. There is no chase here, but Ness keeps up the tension as Mayor Prentiss exerts his totalitarian and misogynistic control over “New Prentisstown.” Todd’s sections alternate with Viola’s this time, and we get a much better view of her character. Todd is made to participate in Prentiss’ oppression of the native Spackle as they are rounded into a labor camp. Viola’s story follows the rebel “Answer,” who resist the regime using a mix of terrorism and guerrilla warfare.

Ask can be a disturbing read at times, and it’s to Ness’ credit that he could keep me reading despite the horrors of torture, concentration camps, and genocide. The novel raises a ton of thought provoking questions in a scenario that feels scarily all too real. Are Mistress Coyle’s actions in any way justified given the situation? How complicit is Todd in the mayor’s crimes?

Both Todd and Viola can be aggravating at times, acting extremely stupid out of concern over the other. Todd definitively breaks at one point, robotically following orders out of a belief that Viola may be complicit with the opposite side. Viola goes after Todd on her own at another point, willingly subjecting herself to personal injury.

That said, this is still a must read if you were intrigued by the ending of the previous book. Be aware, however, that Ness once again ends on a major cliffhanger.