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
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.