Title: Independent Study
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing #2
Genre: Teen Dystopian
Rating: 5/5 stars!
The Overview: In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.
While I only liked The Testing, I absolutely loved Independent Study! The testing process was what initially drew me to this series, and I was concerned that once the testing in the first book was over there would be nothing to carry my interest over to the second book. The awesome part is that the testing does continue, it just does so in a slightly different way (in the form of new student initiation). There were a lot of tasks and obstacles for the main character, Cia, to overcome, and I was wildly entertained to see how she managed to cope with each one.
I have read some criticism that Cia is just too smart to be a realistic character. While I totally see why some people would feel that way, it wasn’t something that bothered me at all. Even though Cia always had the answers, I always felt like she had to work for them, and that effort was more important to me than anything else. It took a lot of creative construction on the author’s part to not only come up with the tests, but to think up answers that were complex enough to challenge the characters. I love reading books about tests/trials and books about competitions, and Independent Study was a great combination of the two.
Although it took me a while to get used to, I actually like the voice the book is written in. Charbonneau was a very unique way of saying things that (I eventually decided) adds a great deal of personality to Cia. Charbonneau also uses the language to create phenomenal pacing – both speeding up passages for excitements and slowing them down to make sure you understand the gravity of what she’s talking about. It worked really well, I only wish I had caught on to what she was doing more quickly so I could’ve studied it better.
Overall, this book is definitely getting a spot in my top ten books of 2014. Now all that is left to do is to read the third one, Graduation Day, and hope it is just as good! While the series is not terribly unique compared to the myriad of dystopian’s on the market, I think it’s cool concept and voice (and the sheer awesomeness of the second book) are enough to make me want to recommend it to other readers.
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