Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: Independent Study (Joelle Charbonneau)

Independent Study (The Testing, #2)
Title: Independent Study
Series: The Testing Series, Book 2
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Political Thriller
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, scary situations, survival situations, some kissing)
Told: First Person (Cia), Present Tense
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find It On: Goodreads


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.

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Three Words: Teen political thriller.

Series: This is the second book in The Testing Series, and it ends on a major cliffhanger. My review of Book 1, The Testing, can be found here. The third and last book, Graduation Day, releases June 3, 2013.

Writing: Cia's first person viewpoint read as she felt - emotionally confused and a little conflicted. While this didn't make for the smoothest read, I really connected with Cia and the story, and once the action started I had no trouble making short work of the book.

SettingA hard future in which humanity tries to rebuild after a devastating war that wiped out nearly everything and everyone and poisoned what remained. Small towns that surround the ruling Tosu City struggle to survive, and their children dream of attending University and learning skills to help rebuild the country, not knowing the horrors that await them if they are chosen. In this book we explore Tosu City and the governing structure, and discover just how much more "civilized" it is.

Story: After months of studying, Cia survives Examination Day - and finds herself placed in the last field of study she would ever choose to undertake. But when she rediscovers the truth about The Testing and the University, she joins the mounting rebellion to overthrow the University director and save not only herself and her loved ones, but the entire country. While it began a little slow, once Cia moved to her Studies residence the story sucked me in with intense plotting and a relentless pace. Where The Testing was a dystopian survival story, Independent Study is a political thriller - and while I've never been one to enjoy anything political, I truly enjoyed this engrossing story.

Characters: Cia is the strong but scared type of heroine - she'll do what has to be done to do what's right and save those she loves, but don't think she won't be shaking in her boots while she does it. This made for a realistic character that was easy to relate to, and root for. A few characters from The Testing return, including her love interest Tomas and enemy/ally Will, but many new faces are added - whether they are enemies or allies is still in question, though. I did have a hard time keeping some of them straight, but overall they were interesting additions.

Romantic Relationships: No new romantic interests are presented. Whether Cia stays with Tomas is another matter...

Conclusion: While it began a little slow, Independent Study was overall a highly engrossing political thriller that I couldn't put down! I'm now desperate to get my hands on the final book in the trilogy, Graduation Day!

For Fans Of: The Hunger Games Series

4 1/2 out of 5 Scribbles


  1. Ah, good review! Thanks for posting!

  2. I keep seeing this series getting blogged about (and getting great reviews too!) and while I think yours has been one of the most thoughtful and thorough in explaining plot, characters and writing style .. I still haven't been swayed to pick this one up.
    I believe it may be the fact it's what you've termed 'Teen political thriller' and I think it's exactly what I needed to know to sum up my hesitancy about this series.
    I probably won't be reading it, but I appreciate your great post, I'm glad I spotted it!