Book Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

independent studyTitle: 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.

independent study 2

The Review:

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.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The TestingTitle: The Testing

Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Series: The Testing #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one. But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

The Testing

The Review:

I had this book lined up next on my reading list until a couple of negative reviews surfaced… and then it got moved to the back-burner. Several months later, Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhhh! gave it a promising review and included it in her top ten books of 2013 list. As she’s a self-proclaimed dystopian addict and one of my favorite kindred book spirits, I knew I had to give this series a second look. And you know what? I’m really glad I did.

Before I get into it, I need to admit I’m already finished with the second book (Independent Study) and, while I had a couple of issues with The Testing, I loved the second book so much that those issues are nothing but a distant memory. This is a problem because if I had written this review when I was supposed to (i.e., before continuing on in the series) it probably would’ve been a little harsher, but what can I say? My immense enjoyment of the second book has definitely pulled up my opinion of the series as a whole.

In any case, I’ll try and speak to my initial opinion of the first book throughout the rest of this review. Overall, there were several things I liked about it, and a few that I didn’t. First off, I love competitions of any sort, and a bunch of kids gathered together to showcase their mental assets against one another, actively competing for a spot in the University, thrilled me to no end. I love books about people in school, especially the testing sequences (weird I know). Most of this novel focused around the candidates reacting to challenges and problems put forth to them by the testing committee. The creativity and presentation of those tests were by far the best parts of the novel. I found myself hard-pressed to put it down because I was eager to see what problem they would face next and how Cia, the main heroine, would solve it.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst-case-scenario from Hunger games and the countless other dystopian I’ve read, but I figured out right away that there was something more sinister at play than a mere placement test (as I’m sure most readers will). The problem is, the testing went from plausibly dangerous to ridiculously deadly in the blink of an eye. I’m pretty sure the author was going for shock value, but I found it too clumsy to be really effective. Cia’s reaction to the event emotionally distanced me from it even further. In any case, this is where my rating of the book started to fall and, while excellent testing scenes ensued, it never really gained back my confidence.

That said, I’m actually surprised I picked up a second book at all, but what ever reading god drew me to it, I am immensely grateful. Let’s just say I liked it so much that it’s in contention to be one of my favorite books of the year. I am incredibly eager to get my hands on the third and final book of the trilogy (Graduation Day).

If you are on the fence about this series, I would encourage you to give it a try. There are enough cool elements in the first book to make it worth your while, and who doesn’t love a series that gets better and better with each book?

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

Graduation dayTitle: Graduation Day

Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Series: The Testing #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: June 17, 2014

The Overview: In book three of the Testing series, the United Commonwealth wants to eliminate the rebel alliance fighting to destroy The Testing for good. Cia is ready to lead the charge, but will her lethal classmates follow her into battle? She wants to put an end to the Testing: In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor, Cia Vale, vows to fight. But she can’t do it alone: This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves–and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates. Who can Cia trust? The stakes are higher than ever-lives of promise cut short or fulfilled; a future ruled by fear or hope–in the electrifying conclusion to Joelle Charbonneau’s epic Testing trilogy. Ready or not…it’s Graduation Day. The Final Test is the Deadliest!

Graduation day

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

I have a plethora of books I’m waiting on. The trouble is, all the ones I’ve not done a WoW post for don’t have covers, release dates, and/or titles as of yet, making difficult to feature them. So for the next foreseeable future, I’m going to be focusing on books that I think I would be waiting on if I’d actually made the time to start the series.

The Testing is a book I disregarded initially because I read one rather underwhelming review about it. Over the last couple of months, however, I have come across at least half a dozen rave reviews which definitely made me reconsider my decision not to read it. I do love books about competitions, so I think I actually might be giving the series a try sometime soon. I always love it when I start a series right before the final book is released – I really hate waiting!

What book are you waiting on? Is this a series you’d recommend I start reading?

by Niki Hawkes