Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

This second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy sustains the tense pace of the first, picking up the action directly from the cliff-hanger ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go. Todd and Viola are separated, but struggle to return to each other. They also battle to maintain their individuality in a violent world where the pressure to conform is immense. A world where thoughts can read by others and self control also means a disciplined mind. A world where the war is men against women. Grade 9 and up.

Ness is a gay man and dedicated The Ask and the Answer to Patrick Gale (also gay), so I hoped there would be some gay content, as there was in the first book - where Todd was raised by two men who loved each other - but there wasn't. I have no complaints about the storyline, however, and the gender themes certainly have a queer sensibility. Indeed, The Knife of Never Letting Go won the James Tiptree, Jr. prize last year (among other awards). That's an award given to books that expand or explore our understanding of gender.

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