Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

January 5, 2014 Dystopia, Joelle Charbonneau, Reviews 7 ★½

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing # 2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 7, 2014
Genres: Dystopia
Pages: 310
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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.

I wouldn’t normally read the sequel to a book I disliked, as was the case with The Testing.  But I was excited to read that book, and some weird fluke made both The Testing and Independent Study available at BEA last May, so I eagerly snapped up both ARCs.  The Testing was a big disappointment, but since I already had the sequel in my hands, I decided to give it a read.  Some of the problems with the first book (such as the endless descriptions of written examinations) were less of a factor here, but the sequel presented its own new issues.

I was feeling optimistic near the beginning of the book, as it is packed with action.  Cia and the other students in the Testing program are split up into teams in a Survivor-style test of mental and physical challenges, but these have the added element of being potentially fatal.  The competitions were quite clever and fun to read, although I still can’t figure out why the administrators go to such length to pick out potential leaders from among the best and the brightest, only to risk killing many of them.  Nevertheless, the story’s flaws soon became apparent, beginning with Cia.  This girl is infallible.  She’s smarter than everyone else.  She sees what no else can see.  She deduces what no one else can deduce.  She succeeds where everyone else fails miserably.  I have no idea why the author decided to portray her like this, because when we know ishe is always going to come out on top, no matter what obstacles are in her way, why should we care about her?  And despite her ability to win at everything in life, Cia still manages to be horribly dull and uninteresting.

If Cia’s superhuman intelligence wasn’t enough, she’s got a large group of supporting characters to help her out.  She’s always in the right place at the right time to witness or overhear critical events and conversations.  When that’s not possible, a character steps out and delivers a ten minute monologue to catch Cia up to speed.  Potential allies seek her out even before she can identify them.  The bad guys make their evil intentions known early and loudly.

But if Cia is so smart, why does she make dumb decisions when it comes to defending her life?  She does everything possible to avoid engaging in violence, even when someone is trying to kill her.  Only when she is actually moments from death will she finally make the most meager of attempts to defend herself.  But this is presented as a symbol of Cia’s goodness, rather than as an example of nearly fatal stupidity.  Even then, she can’t quite finish the job, and someone else must step in to finish the attacker while Cia is consumed with guilt and regret.

I probably could have saved myself some trouble and skipped ahead to the ending of the book, because an event in the last couple of pages negates much of the plot, forcing a reset for the third book.  It also gives off  VERY heavy whiffs of  the ending of Catching Fire, and when I read the Goodreads synopsis for Graduation Day, it seems clear that it’s positioned to be a sorry retread of Mockingjay.



7 Responses to “Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau”

  1. Carrie

    It sounds like you had the same problems with The Testing that I did. How did the author not see that killing off your best and brughtest was a dumb idea?

    I was not a fan of Hunger Games inspired second-half, so to hear she’s continuing to ape those books is a turn off.

    I had forgotten this was coming out, and now I’m not going to worry about it, unless it hits the $2 shelf on Kindle. 🙂
    Carrie recently posted…Stacking The ShelvesMy Profile

  2. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    you know that I’ve not read this series and honestly I don’t plan to. I’ve seen some other folks really love it but just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea though I loved THG. Too bad…I was hoping that this next book would have redeemed the series somewhat for you. I hope you enjoy your next read more. thank you for the honest review.
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Review of Cress by Marissa MeyerMy Profile

  3. Kelly L.

    I am not a huge fan in coincidences when I read and it sounds like I would not be a fan of Independent Study just from the number of coincidences it has. -sideeyes Cia- Does she has some kind of magic power of something?
    Great informative review Stephanie! I was thinking of trying The Testing series, but looking at your review of Independent Study, nope, it’s not for me. And I was hoping that Independent Study would not be at all like Catching Fire, but nope, it looks like that’s not happening.
    Kelly L. recently posted…Judge A Book By Its Signature: Boundless – Cynthia HandMy Profile

  4. Kim

    It takes a lot to get me to pick up dysotpians nowadays. I wasn’t a big fan of them pre-dystopian surge in YA though. This book just doesn’t sound great. It bothers me when writers over describe things (either setting or action). There’s an art in using as few words as possible. That’s why I liked Hunger Games. Collins never rambled on. She got to the point and moved on. Sorry you didn’t like it 🙁
    Kim recently posted…New Year! New Giveaway!My Profile

  5. Nicole

    Hahah looks like we have differing opinions on this one. I am sometimes bothered by the ‘ease’ with which some books are written but I didn’t notice it so much with this one until you mentioned it in your review. I can see where you are coming from. I think I was enjoying the tests too much and I am a huge nerd so Cia’s studiousness and intelligence appealed to me and I didn’t question it.

    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert
    Nicole recently posted…Stacking the Shelves (54) – Jan 11thMy Profile

  6. Scott Pilgrim

    Definitely not going to pick up this one! I hated The Testing and frankly, this doesn’t sound like an improvement. I feel like Charbonneau decides to borrow way too much from THG. Great review!
    Scott Pilgrim recently posted…Stacking The Shelves #42My Profile

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