Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Posted: January 13, 2014 in Book Reviews, eBook reviews
Tags: , ,

Independent Study is the followup to Charbonneau’s The Testing in which young protagonist Cia Vale survived the gruelling life or death competition to secure a place at her society’s university.  The society in which Cia lives is struggling to emerge after many years of devastation, both natural and man made and the graduates of the university are expected to provide leadership to their communities.  When we left Cia at the end of The Testing she was just beginning to understand what had happened during The Testing and the depth of her society’s betrayal of its young people.  She must decide what to do with that information and whom to trust.

I will start by saying that while Independence Day is a good book, I did not enjoy it as much as The Testing.  Perhaps that’s not too surprising – the second book in a trilogy (Graduation Day, the third and final book in the series is due out later this summer) is often the most challenging for a writer in terms of keeping narrative tension and the plot moving.

What I liked

The characters.  I continued to be engaged by Cia and her story.  I find her a smart, level headed heroine and I liked that she considered any issue deeply before acting.  I do wonder though if this considered analysis before acting may be a major flaw for her in book three.  I also appreciated the fact that any love interest didn’t turn her brains to mush as is too often the case with YA heroines.

The setting and concept.  Generally speaking I liked the dystopian/Hunger Games setting of this series.  I liked the moral dilemma in which it places Cia in this book.  I did have an issue with the government’s so casually condemning many of its top young people to death and wasting their talents at a time when the society is struggling to survive.  I still didn’t feel that was adequately explained in either of the books.

Interactions between the students.  I enjoyed the developments of the relationships between the students.  I liked the introduction of the Tosu City students to the mix – I felt that added an interesting dynamic to the story.

What I didn’t like

Lack of focus.  My biggest issue with Independent Study was the lack of focus.  I found it often unclear what Cia was trying to achieve in this book.  Was her goal simply to survive the induction (a sort of mini-Testing)?  Was it to aid the rebels by finding proof of the reality of the Testing?  Was it to obtain a good internship so that she could work against the Testing from the inside?  Personally, I feel it would have had a stronger narrative if some of these subplots had been removed.

All in all though I did enjoy Independent Study and will certainly check out Graduation Day when it’s released this summer.  I look forward to reading how Cia’s story continues.

I gave Independent Study three and a half stars out of five.

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