Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Independent StudySource: Won from HMH
Publisher: HMH
Series: The Testing #2
Edition: Hardcover, 310 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Purchase: AmazonBarnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases

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.

When the first book came out a lot of people compared it to The Hunger Games and complained it was too similar, while I agree it shared some similarities I also think it’s worth looking into if you enjoy dystopian novels that go by a quick pace. Independent Study works to set aside those similarities and stand  on its own.

Independent Study picks up a few months after The Testing ended, with Cia now enrolled at the University. She has worked hard to stay alive and make it to the University so she might continue with her dream of studying technology, even though her dream now seems like a nightmare. She doesn’t remember the events of The Testing, but she is aware of what happened thanks to the recording she left herself and it was interesting to see her weigh in on people she befriended as someone who doesn’t know what their capable of and as someone who has seen them at their worst. As you can guess from the cover she doesn’t quite get into the program she was hoping for and suddenly there is far more pressure on her than ever, and the University has proven to be just as deadly as The Testing.

I love the fast paced flow of the book, how there are no flowery moments to stop the action. Cia is in danger and there is far more going on than she originally though, not to mention she now has classes to handle. This book didn’t bring back any good memories from college that’s for sure, I remember studying like my life depended on it and in this book it actually does. However the danger is much more subtle in this book, but it still looms large in the background. There is plenty of action to get the blood pumping and plenty of intrigue to wrap your brain around, so much so that I finish this book in a few sittings and was ready for book three. I love that Cia goes between wanting to change things to wanting to pretend she knows nothing and get on with her life. She doesn’t want to save the world necessarily, nor does she really think she could but when faced with the very real possibility of doing nothing and she chooses to act. She is forced into it only to a certain extent and I liked that she consciously makes that choice to step over the line of safety.

This is one of those rare cases where the second book is better than the first! I think this does the series a big favor by proving this is NOT the Hunger Games and that Cia is not a mechanical MC simply there to upset the status quo. I can’t wait to read Graduation Day.

4 stars

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9 Responses to Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

  1. I know, I know. It was a lot like the Hunger Games in many ways…but different enough that it kept me intrigued. I liked the first two, now for graduation!

  2. Ok, I need to dig out my copy of Testing, stellar review Michelle!!

  3. Christy says:

    I want to read the first book, but have been hesitant. I’m not too concerned about the HG comparison, and the fact that the 2nd is better than the first puts me at ease. I’ll read them soon.

  4. So many books are compared to Hunger Games these days. But at least this one sounds like it has a few other things going for it, like studying lol! I love the concept of this book. Great review Michelle.

  5. I wasn’t thrilled with the first book of this series. I did think it was very much like THG. Too much IMO. And I had some issues with the writing, too much showing and narration not enough telling and dialogue. This book was MUCH better. I enjoyed it so much more. I could tell the writer grew a bit. She was much more focused and I liked the story. I wasn’t sure at first if I would want to read the entire series, but I do. I have a copy of Graduation Day, so I’m looking forward to see how it ends.

  6. I still need to read The Testing but great to hear that it was better than first!

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