Title: Independent Study [The Testing 2]
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Cia Vale survived The Testing, as has Tomas, the boy she loves, and they have both gained admission to the University. She has a promising future as a leader of the United Commonwealth and no memory of her bloody testing experience, thanks to a government-sanctioned memory wipe. Cia should be happy but is plagued by doubts about the past and future. Determined to find the truth, she embarks on a path of study forbidden by the government delving into the Commonwealth’s darkest secrets. What she finds is the brutal reality lurking behind the friendly faces of her classmates and the unbearable realization that leaders chosen to protect us can be our greatest enemy.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I have mixed feelings towards this series. I very nearly gave this five stars because I love Cia so much as a main character. She’s an intelligent, heady character (which I’m partial to), and despite being firmly in the YA genre, she doesn’t make a lot of dumb mistakes. It’s a bit of a breath of fresh air from a lot of the YA I’ve been privileged enough to read. The Narrative is clean and well-written, with a lack of any huge errors in the spelling, grammar, and pace. I also love how despite the brilliance of Cia, the author doesn’t force things to go her way… quite the opposite—life is very difficult for Cia. I was sucked into the story by her constant struggle.
This edition to the series was a bit of a step back from what I’d come to expect. The first book spent a lot of time immersing the reader into Cia’s struggle as she got a glimpse of how truly terrible her government is. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen when she passed the test, but I certainly didn’t expect her to be pushed farther into testing. The second book was much like the first. The students are thrown into a cycle of testing where they are in constant danger… and while there are a few intelligence-related puzzles, I think in Independent Study, the tests lean more towards the athletic and quick puzzle-solving skills.
Now, what I didn’t enjoy was the cast of characters. I’m not saying they weren’t well written—most of them were—but I had this impending doom sensation through most of the book. It wasn’t easy to tell who’s side the characters were on. I didn’t trust them—any of them. On one hand, that’s awesome! Cia felt the same way… but it would have been nice to have a breather every now and then.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I did feel it was a little too similar to the first in the series. It felt like I was going through the same journey all over again, except Cia didn’t remember that we’d done this all before. It would have been nice to have a change in main plot in one way or another, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying the book. If you like YA Dystopian books, you may really enjoy this series. I do recommend it.