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Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Independent Study: The Testing Series Book 2" by Joelle Charbonneau (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Joelle Charbonneau's Official Website Here
Read FBC's Review of 'The Testing" Here

OVERVIEW: 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.

FORMAT: Independent Study is the second book in The Testing Series. Book 1 in the series is The Testing. Independent Study is a YA dystopian novel with romance, drama, adventure, and political intrigue. It stands at 310 pages and was published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Readers on January 7, 2014.

ANALYSIS: The Testing was a new, unique dystopian novel that was designed to replace the void YA readers had after reading Hunger Games and Divergent. While it was a quick read, it wasn't a 'wow' book for me. Independent Study is the sequel to The Testing and I have mixed feelings about the series.

Independent Study follows the testing candidates after they have passed the testing and are moving into their own independent areas of study. Unfortunately, because the government always knows best in dystopian novels – the government will pick and choose which areas of study a student goes into.

This sequel has so much potential to be a good book, but unfortunately something falls flat. I'm not sure if it is any one thing, so much as it is a bunch of little things that – when combined – turn into an 'eh' book.

Let's start with the main character – Cia. Cia is smart, you would have to be to be picked for the testing and pass it, but somehow in the time from the testing to when Independent Study picks up, Cia turns into this all perfect, wonderful, brilliant person. She knows the answers to everything practically and she knows them hours before everyone else.

Now, normally this wouldn't bother me, but it felt as if the entire book was designed to showcase just how brilliant Cia is to the point it worked the opposite. I understood why the other people didn't like her, I understood why they wanted to take her down. I really don't think this was the desired effect the author intended.

Take the sudden brilliance of the main character and mix it with the extensive info dumping and random plot twist, and you have what is just an alright book. There are huge sections of Independent Study that go on and on to explain how the area got to be like it was, some of the history, and other aspects. It just got a bit overwhelming and felt like it threw off the vibe of the book.

I understand that second books are a tough sell for authors. Authors are tasked with carrying the huge momentum from the first book into the second without any problems. This book unfortunately didn't do it for me. I found myself floundering to get into a groove with the book and it honestly felt like an entirely new series I was starting. I'm not sure if it was the random throwing out there of the two revolutions, the character development changes, or the rather excessive info dumping.

Overall, Independent Study wasn't what I would have expected. It wasn't enough to turn me completely off from the series, but I don't feel the momentum that I felt in the first book. I still enjoy the whole school setting and educational twist, but I don't feel the push to read book 3 like I usually feel when following a series.

I am certain that people looking for a replacement or a similar series to Hunger Games will enjoy this series, but I don't see the attachment forming that I saw in Hunger Games.


Bibliotropic said...

When I read The Testing, I was struck by 2 things. 1) it was a good book, decently creative with a clear narrative and smoth writing style. 2) Having come after so many other popular dystopian novels and series, it feel like absolutely nothing special, just another good novel in a growing genre of good novels, nothing to really make it stand out from everything else on the shelves.

Had The Testing been written and published before Divergent, for example, I probably would have appreciated it more. It wouldn't have had so many other novels stacked against it, and it might not have come across as Yet Another YA Dystopia. It wasn't bad. It just was so much like half a dozen things I'd already read.

I'm still wondering whether or not I'll read Independent Study. On one hand, I started the series and I do like to finish what I start, if I can. And it's been a while since I've read any dystopian novels, so maybe it won't seem so derivative. And I do have a soft spot for books involving education, for some twisted reason. On the other hand, the first book failed to wow me no matter how much I can admit that there was nothing really wrong with it, and I can't tell how much all my prior experiences are going to colour reading this, if I do.

Maybe some day when I wan a quick read and can't find anything else on my shelves that appeals to me.

Cindy said...

I completely agree about The Testing. I felt momentum and that is was alright - there are certainly worse YA dystopian books out there - and it did have a very small, unique twist.

When I reviewed The Testing, I looked at it more as a decent alternative to those looking for other, similar books to Hunger Games. So I wasn't as critical of it as I could have been.

Readers within the target age group tend to stick with what they know and right now dystopian/Hunger Games/Divergent books are what is 'cool', so I think it works for those people. Someone looking for a book that will wow them, keep them talking long into the night, etc.... won't find it with this series.

That isn't to say the author is bad or didn't do what she set out to do, Charbonneau is a good writer, her book is just the average run-of-the-mill dystpian.

I plan on reading the third book, just to see what happens and the books take me maybe 2 days to read. But I won't rush to read it.


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