Hannah: Wheeeere on Earth (or New World) to begin? Well, I originally read the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness in 2017 and it instantly became a favourite. I press these books on any and everyone (including you, dear reader – if you haven’t read the series yet, stop reading this post [there will be spoilers] and JUST.READ.THE.BOOKS), and I gave them to Kyle for his birthday this year. When he started reading them, I knew it’d only be a matter of time before I was rereading them so we could chat about the story! I have a pretty terrible memory, so I had forgotten huge parts of it and also felt emotionally ready to return to New World (HA! HA! Trust me, you are never emotionally ready for what this trilogy does to you)… so I grabbed my copy of the first book, raced through it, moved on to the second one, raced through that, and found myself ready to read Monsters of Men, the third and final installment, at the same time as Kyle. So we buddy-read! This was a new experience for both of us, having never buddy-read before, and for that reason we thought we’d do something else new and buddy-blog about it!
Kyle: I have to agree about the fact that you are never emotionally prepared for this series. It is by far the wildest roller coaster of a trilogy that I have ever read (survived). Monsters of Men is easily the fastest-paced book I’ve come across as there is non-stop action from page one. I mean, for goodness’ sake, the story literally opens in the middle of a war zone. After each near-death or close encounter, I would look over at Hannah with huge eyes and we’d both need to take a few minutes to absorb what had just happened. Then one of us would suggest a walk, a coffee, or honestly any other distraction so that my mushed brain could try process the absolute MADNESS of the devilish Mayor or the new ploy by the cunningly evil Mistress. This was the beauty of buddy-reading with Hannah as we have a similar pace of reading so at any moment we could both look up at each other and be like, “Waaaaaaaah!”. The relief and comfort of having another person next to you going through the same journey… is just plain awesome. Definitely a highly recommended experience.
Hannah: I also absolutely loved buddy-reading – sitting next to one another and turning the page at the same time; squealing or cringing or just being gobsmacked at the same shocking moments; surreptitiously watching Kyle’s expression while some or other big plot point was revealed. At arguably one of the most emotional moments of the story, I looked up from my book with tears streaming down my face and was met with Kyle’s face, eyes wide, hand grabbing my own, voice saying, “Ohhhh, lovey.” To know we were both experiencing the same anguish at those particular moments made the heaviness of the book bearable. But let’s also really quickly talk about plot twists, shall we?! There were so many that I’ll just highlight two. The addition of a third voice to the mix – the voice of The Return – was the first thing to throw me when reading this book. This layered narration was really cool, particularly its progression: from Knife being a story entirely narrated by Todd, to Ask & Answer incorporating Viola’s perspective alongside Todd’s, to Monsters giving us not only Todd and Viola’s stories but also the viewpoint of a member of an entirely different species. It emphasised to me the importance of differing perspectives – that we’re given a clear window into the Spackle mindset and way of life – as well as the difficulties of these multiple perspectives – how will they ever all see eye-to-eye with one another? The answer to such an asking, I believe, is love: the kind of love cultivated between Todd and Viola, borne of desperate situations and learning to trust and value one another, as well as the kind of empathetic love the Spackle and humans seem able to cultivate at some level by the end of the series, in the understanding that there have been failures, misunderstandings and irreparable damage inflicted from both species, and that the only way to achieve peace is to not focus on how far they each have fallen but rather actively GET BACK UP AGAIN.
The second twist is who actually comes closest to dying in this book. Most of the way through, you think it’ll be Viola, since her arm is so infected. The sense of foreboding when Viola and Bradley first head up to the Spackle camp for peace talks is real, and The Return nearly stabbing Viola justifies that feeling of apprehension entirely. Of course, later on when Viola tries to return to the Spackle camp and conduct peace talks again, she is again nearly killed, this time by the Mayor (and can we all just let out a deep sigh of relief that it is FINALLY evident that the Mayor is a complete psychopath?). Considering Davy also shot her near this area in the first book, I’m getting the sense that maybe Viola should just stay away from the waterfall.
And then it’s not Viola who dies at the end at all, is it? Instead, we are absolutely wrenched apart by Todd’s apparent death at the hands of The Return, albeit an attack he inflicts because he thinks Todd is the Mayor (and I could talk for a while longer on the point that Todd comes to resemble the Mayor so closely, but I’ve already spoken for too long, so maybe on my third read!). This chapter was no easier to read this time around than the first time I read it. Thanks be to Ben who packs Todd’s wound full of ice, and to our benevolent leader Sir Patrick Ness who deemed to save Todd’s life (if not Manchee’s or Acorn’s). Brutal… this book is absolutely brutal.
Kyle: If you and your significant other (Hannah being wonderfully significant) have not tried buddy reading- we highly recommend giving it a go. Here’s a pro tip (because after one buddy reading we are obviously pro’s): find the comfiest couch that can contain cozy cocoon cuddles, stock up on copious snacks and hot chocolate (or a naughty glass of red wine, if it’s not a school night), one big heavy snuggly blanket to rule them all, and here comes the deal clincher: go to a website called Rainy Mood, regardless of the weather, the sounds of thunder storms and light rain on the window will put you into the ultimate cuddle-and-read mood.
Disclaimer: If you do not have somebody to buddy read with: we profusely apologise and strongly suggest that you bookmark this post for when you do find yourself in such a situation.