Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau | Review

I want to know more about these symbols.

I want to know more about these symbols.

Title: Independent Sudy
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 1/7/2013
Length: 320 pages
Series?: The Testing #2
Genre: YA Dystopia
Format: E-book
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss

Note: This review will contain spoilers for The Testing, the first book in the trilogy. If you haven’t yet read The Testing, I recommend hopping over to my review of the novel to see what it’s about. 


Cia’s back, y’all. She’s survived the Testing, had her memory wiped, and she’s ready to start her time as a student of The University. But as the tagline on the book says, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. And there are plenty of opportunities for failure at University. More than in The Testing, in fact. Because, guess what? EVERYTHING IS A TEST.

After six months of initial study, the first test is assigning placements for the student’s official field of study. The second test is induction into that field of study. The third test is excelling in the coursework. And the fourth test is an internship. Each test is designed to whittle the student pool to the best and brightest of the Commonwealth, but this isn’t a game. Cia finds out the horrifying truth about what happens to those who fail a test and are “reassigned,” and it’s a game changer for her attitude about this whole business. There’s some serious politics going on behind the scenes of The University and the Government. Testing candidates are just pawns in a bigger battle being fought between some very powerful people.


I learned a new term with this book that I just love: bridge book. A bridge book is that pivotal second book in a trilogy. You know…that book that usually sucks (*cough* Crossed *cough*). But Independent Study is actually okay. Yes, it drags in parts. But the challenges Cia faces are quite interesting and her choices are, too. The last fifty pages, in particular, set up a final installment that I will be excited to get my hands on.

That being said, I don’t really care for Cia as a character. She’s smart. We get it. She’s unrealistically smart. She never makes a mistake, which is rather annoying. However, throughout the story she keeps repeating her father’s advice, “TRUST NO ONE.” She does seem to make some interesting choices in who to trust and not trust, so I’m hoping to see that this is her Achilles Heel in the third book. I would like to see her not figure everything out so perfectly and face a real challenge.

In the third book, I’d also like to see reassignment explained in a satisfactory way. I was not surprised by Cia’s discovery about this, but I feel there must be more to it. Too much is left open. It just makes no sense that a government would do such a ridiculous thing with their almost best and brightest. There has to be more going on there. So bring it, Charbonneau! So far the series had surprised me in the directions it’s taken, so I do believe Charbonneau has more in store for us than we expect as tensions rise in the Commonwealth. Plus the events in the final pages of the novel lead me to believe we’ll be jumping right in to some action.

Final Grade: B

Sooooo…maybe it’s not as good as the first installment, but it’s still very good. And it definitely sets this series up as different from The Hunger Games, which I was glad to see. I’m worn out on dystopian trilogies (omg, you guys, my read after this was Vampire Academy…that’s how worn out I am), but I’ll keep reading this because I like the nerdiness of tests of intelligence and skill in the story.

Fans of dystopian novels will probably love this, and I do recommend for those who enjoyed The Testing to keep reading the series. It’s one of the better ones out there. For librarians, buy it with The Testing and be prepared to purchase the third installment, Graduation Day, when it comes out in June 2014. Like The Testing, content is similar to The Hunger Games, with violence, political plots, and character deaths…as well as some passionate kissing. So if you have THG on your shelf, consider adding this series, as well.

What are your thoughts on this series? On “bridge” novels? Love Cia? Hate her? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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12 responses to “Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau | Review

  1. Yet another series hanging around in my ‘I will read these eventually’ pile..

    I swear I need to be immortal if I’m going to read everything I say I will..

    Great review :)

    • If it helps, these books are really fast reads. Like The Hunger Games, they are short-ish and fast-paced. But I totally get the “too many books, too little time” thing. Because I’ve got more books than I could ever read!

  2. hey,
    i really like your book reviews. they really convince me, and then i want to read those books. I also like that you have a lot of variety in the YA books you read. I love YA, and so I think your collection and reviews are amazing.
    I just have another recommendation, though. Have you read “The Monk who sold his Ferrari”? I don’t this it is exactly YA, but i really think you should give it a try. I really liked this book. I was going through my old notes, and I found my 7th grade paper on this book. It shocked me. (In a good way :) )
    I think you would really like “The Monk who sold his Ferrari”, and I would appreciate it if you read it. And even more if you reviewed it. :D. Please keep doing what you’re doing, because I think it’s amazing, and it really helps me learn about all the YA authors I don’t know.

    P.S. I am this 14-year-old John-Green-lover, and your reviews help me step out of that circle, and explore new books and genres. Thanks. :D

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I miss working with students and all the books that my students recommend to me. I’ve looked into The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari on Goodreads, and it looks like a good read (and not too long, either!) I’ll give it a try!

  3. I actually spent a long time trying to remember what the first book of the series was called because I remember it was very dystopian and for some unknown reason made a strong impression on me. Thanks for blogging about the second book!

    • No problem! I’ve a review for the third one coming in May, too…this trilogy is being released very quickly!

  4. Ah yes, bridge novels. It is where authors love to cram in as much world building as possible and then try to have an action sequence in the last 50 pages to keep readers interested. ;)

  5. Bahaha Crossed did suck. But Independent Study was a much better “bridge book” (ooh learning new things!!!)
    The beginning was slow for me but I really liked how book two dove so much more into the world building and political side of it versus just Cia’s school side and minor politics.
    I do agree that Cia was maybe a bit TOO smart. She was definitely way smarter than I am haha. Sometimes I know she has to be the smart one to figure it out but now that you mention it… I agree. Maybe there were times when someone else should have solved the problems!

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