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. InIndependent 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.
It was quite a long gap of time between when I read The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau and when I started reading the sequel, Independent Study. Getting back into it was a little tough, at first, because I couldn’t really remember which character had done what or even which characters were trustworthy or not. Despite this, I got back into the flow of the story pretty quickly.
The plot could be compared to the central ideas in The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, so it does sometimes seem a tad bit like a rip off, but is great if you’re craving something with a similar society and almost identical conflicts. The part that I really enjoyed was a deadly scavenger hunt that the university freshmen had to play in order to be accepted by their peers. Anytime there’s any sort of scavenger hunt or treasure hunt I get really into it. National Treasure, anyone? I know Nicolas Cage gets some serious hate, but how can you not like that movie?!
The scavenger hunt section ended up taking up about two thirds of the book, so there wasn’t a big focus on developing the political conflict going on in their society. Because of this it was a really fast-paced read and highly enjoyable, although it is quite predictable.
Cia is highly intelligent and extremely compassionate. She is easy to root for because she is such a good person, but this also seems unrealistic. Her character can be at times flat and one-sided and seems to be written entire in black and white with no ambiguity. She’s also somehow able to see things everyone else misses, carry a harder course load in school than anyone before, and have one of the top internships at the same time all without showing any sort of emotional distress. It just all comes too easy to her.
Overall, it was an enjoyable and entertaining but not amazing read.
Similar Books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Matched by Ally Condie