Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Independent Study (#2 in The Testing trilogy)

Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 310
Series: #2 in The Testing series
Series Order: #1 The Testing, #2 Independent Study, #3 Graduation Day (June 2014)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
First Published: January 7, 2014
First Line: "Examination Day - I slide the cool material of my shirt over the five long, jagged scars on my arm and examine myself in the reflector."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn 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.

My Review: When I read the first book in this series, The Testing, back in February I was quite impressed with it.  Sure it's a Hunger Games knock off but it gave me enough to consider it a good read on it's own merits so I was eager to read this second book of the series (after Boy 2 had finished with it, of course).

Sadly, like so many second books in a trilogy, this book fell into the Sophomoric Blues and didn't come close to matching the energy or plot twists of the first book.  I realize that the second book in a trilogy is typically a 'bridge' between the first and third books but it has to give me enough substance and energy to make me want to pick up the last book in the trilogy.  Sadly, Independent Study didn't hold its own which was disappointing.

There were a few issues that I had with this book.  First, I was hoping to get a much better idea of why the government has been set up this way with the testing of it's youth to make a better government.  Let's face it, when there is a vast shortage of people left in a country finding the elite and then testing and killing those who don't measure up doesn't seem like a great plan in the long term.  Yet no one in the upper echelons of society see a problem with it and I wanted to know why.

Why put in the time to educate these teens only to kill off the few who aren't as smart as the small group of elite students?  These kids are still ten times smarter than the kids who weren't even asked to do The Testing so why not keep them around for other purposes?  More background would have been nice because the reader is just expected to accept why things happen instead of understanding why.

This book also lacked the fast-paced action from book one and easily could have been scaled down a bit because there were several slow parts that had me skimming over large sections in the hopes that things would pick up.  It didn't.

I think my biggest complaint about this book is Cia.  She is made to appear so unbelievably smart that she could easily be the love child of Sheldon Cooper, MacGyver and Einstein (if three men could make a baby together).  Seriously.  The girl is wicked brilliant and never seems to make a mistake.  Even when she decides to make a mistake, she turns out to be right.  Must be nice.  That's all well and good for Cia but doesn't provide me with a realistic or even likeable protagonist because on top of her brainiac personality she was pretty boring.  I want to see her falter and see how she reacts to it. It was frustrating seeing how she breezes through this very rigorous education (which she's been given many more classes than other students yet she doesn't seem fazed) and yet still has time to skulk around to learn more about the nefarious plot of the government officials.   Throughout this book I always felt like Cia would come out on top which really puts a damper on the action scenes and intensity of the storyline.

Independent Study wasn't as 'edge of your seat' as The Testing and didn't seem to have a clear storyline.  It felt like it's main goal was to set up for the third book and I realize that that's kind of the point of the second book but I also want the second book to have its own story to tell and not just be a bridge between book one and three.  That doesn't make me compelled to read the third book if the second can't keep my attention.  I had high hopes for this book but with no momentum and a character I can't get behind this book it just didn't give me enough reasons to pick up the last book in the trilogy.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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