ask answer“Your noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.”

I resist wherever possible reading the same author for two consecutive books. I like the spice of variety. But when I finished The Knife Of Never Letting Go, the insistence that I read the next one began to nag at me. I borrowed it (and the third in the series, too) from my friend and after reading a few Christmas presents, I went back to New World to pick up from the most ridiculous cliffhanger left by the prequel.

NOTE: Below there will be spoilers for those who haven’t yet read the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Read on at your own risk.

Todd and Viola have run across the planet from Prentisstown to Haven, only to find that their enemy, Mayor Prentiss, has beaten them to it and turned the city of hope into New Prentisstown, a place where he intends to rule, despite his constant assurances to Todd that he doesn’t want to cause anymore pain and he wants peace to return, ready for the next wave of settlers.

Todd and Viola become separated, allowing the narration to flip between the two of them as they struggle against those around them and their own moral codes to do what they believe is right. However, they soon find themselves on opposite sides of a brewing war, and as time moves on, pressure grows and war becomes more and more imminent, life gets more and more difficult.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Who can you trust? Those are the questions at the forefront of this novel, and they are beautifully explored. The change from one narrator to two narrators in this book is interesting and lets us get a fuller picture of the world, learn more about the history of New World and choose our own sides. Is Todd being controlled? Does Viola have a choice? As with many young adult books, the theme of our choices defining us is strong here, and very well played.

Character development alone deserves some sort of award, as evil characters like Davy Prentiss Jr. begin to show that maybe they aren’t all bad, and Todd refuses to change the one thing that makes him who he is. There’s a welcome return of Wilf, a great character from the first novel, as well as a less welcome return of Ivan, a farmhand who is not afraid to go wherever the power is. The second novel is slower to get going, but once it does, it retains the fast pace of the first. Graphic and violent and not afraid to show people suffering the most horrific injuries and tortures, Ness doesn’t hold back in displaying barbarism of all kinds. There are flashes of the Holocaust here, and they are occasionally uncomfortable to read. Humans are humans, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

I’ve been scathing in the past about YA fiction. I’m no fan of John Green, and of course Stephanie Meyer seems to have single-handedly trained a subsection of the population to believe that an abusive relationship can still be romantic. But there are occasions in which it’s done very well, and others when it is done so perfectly that you would want your teenagers to read the book. In fact, you’d want anyone to read this book. However old you are, you should really get into this series, as it is incredibly well-structured, smart, dark and captivating.

This is how you do young adult fiction.

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