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The Testing #2

Independent Study

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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.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 7, 2014

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About the author

Joelle Charbonneau

28 books2,509 followers
I am a storyteller at heart. I have performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theatre productions across the Chicagoland area.

While I'm happy to perform for an audience, I am equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use my experience from the stage to create compelling characters on the page. I am the author of the Rebecca Robbins mystery series (Minotaur Books), The Paige Marshall Glee Club mysteries (Berkley) and The Testing YA triology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,833 reviews
February 10, 2014
In the context of bad sequels, this is Batman and Robin kind of terrible. How on earth did a series go so wrong from one book to the next?

My opinion of this series has changed so much in this book that I feel like I should go back to the first book to see if I had made a monumental error in rating it so highly. Did I miss something outrageously bad in the first book? Was I so blinded? How does a series go from a 5 in one book to a 2 in the sequel?

The Summary: This is the sequel to The Testing, in which a group of carefully selected students compete in a Hunger Games type of survival competition to determine who will win entrance to the prestigious University in Tosu City.

Cia is our main character, she is a winner, one of a handful who survived the rigorous, dangerous Testing. Her memories of The Testing has been erased, the process of the Testing is so secretive that nobody is allowed to remember what has happened.

Only Cia does. Through a concealed device, Cia has recorded what happened during the Testing, she remembers the betrayals, the murders, the competition. She knows that her friends, smiling at her in the hallways of the University are willing to be as cutthroat as possible to win placement to the University. One of them is her current boyfriend, Tomas.

A year has passed, and Cia is now in the University, she has been selected to enter a highly prestigious leadership program. As is the case with any competitive educational programs, the competition is brutal. To top it off, Cia is now aware of an underground rebellion taking place against the Testing program. She is unwittingly dragged into the rebellion.

The Plot: What plot? I'm sorry, was there a secret rebellion plot? The book serves one purpose, and one purpose only: to show how completely fucking brilliant and perfect and amazing Cia is in every conceivable way.


What. The. Fuck? Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK? The United States is gone. There have been stages of war. Nuclear war, devastation of natural resources, collapse of the government. This has resulted in mutants, a general lack of resources and agriculture. There are now small, scattered colonies throughout the United States, including Cia's colony, which has 1023 citizens.

1023 citizens. Sure. Let's just KILL OFF SEVERAL OF THE BEST YOUNG PEOPLE. Right.

The Testing procedure, I understand. Ok, survival of the best and the brightest. Up to a certain extent, it's understandable. After the Testing...killing off MORE people who get bad grades? No. That doesn't make any fucking sense.
His head lolls back. His braids drag on the ground. I wait for Obidiah to sit up. He doesn’t. I look for the rise and fall of his chest, but there is nothing.

He is gone. Redirected. Dead. If I am not careful, I will be too.
There are NOT a whole lot of fucking people left in the United Commonwealth. It makes NO fucking sense to kill off the youngest, the most intelligent, the ones with the most to contribute to society. This book tries to sell the fact that it's hard to govern a nation that's too large.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Look at fucking China, India, the current United States. Granted, not the best of governments, but people still live, people still manage to survive, most can still make a living. No goverment is perfect, no nation is perfect, no matter how large, how small.

And you expect us to believe that it's ok to kill off the best young people in a nation of, perhaps, several hundred thousand, BECAUSE IT'S HARD TO GOVERN A LARGE COUNTRY?

Especially when you can just erase their memory? No. Fuck no. I'm not a fucking idiot.

Now I Ain't Sayin' She's a Mary Sue...: But Cia is so fucking bloody perfect. Shit would turn into flowers if you flung it at her head.
"You figured out the purpose of the final test faster than anyone expected. Professor Holt and Dr. Barnes were disturbed by how quickly you recognized the insolvability of the task. Dr. Barnes said The Testing demonstrated that one of your greatest strengths is your willingness to trust your intuition."
Cia is a genius, awe-inspiringly flawless in every conceivable way. Her intelligence is legendary. The students at the University take pre-emptive tests to see how many classes they can handle. The more classes, the better, the more intelligent the student. Everyone has but a few classes. Cia has nine.
"Your scores were quite impressive.” She takes a sheet of gray recycled paper off the table next to her. “Because of your high examination marks, your class list is more challenging than the others."

During our Early Studies semester, every student was assigned five courses. This schedule has me attending nine.
She not only has nine classes, she excels at every single one.

Cia passes every single challenge. She remembers ancient governing procedures whose incredibly obscure rules allow her to pass a test that nobody else can.
At the end of that lesson, my teacher mentioned an antiquated law that said any citizen may request a hearing on the Debate Chamber floor.
Due to that tremendously obscure law that NOBODY ELSE BUT CIA KNOWS, she is able to singlehandedly pass that challenge.

Fails at Failing: Even her failures are spectacular...which is to say, when Cia chooses to fail, it is the right thing to do in that circumstance, because she was MEANT to fail. Cia is so good at everything, she knows when failure will equate winning.
“We’re not going to beat it.” I nod at the cluster of observers across the way. “They don’t expect us to, so there’s no point in giving them the satisfaction of seeing us try and come up short.”
And of course, she's right! Failing is the right way to do things because Cia just so fucking magical and perfect. She is praised for knowing when to fail.
“This task was designed to be insurmountable.” Professor Holt takes the markers and gives me a small smile. “Ian was told to engage the bridge when we deduced that Cia had figured out that solution.”
And then SHE DOES IT AGAIN. Like what the actual FUCK?
And I understand. This wasn’t a test I was supposed to pass. Just like the final task during the Induction, this was an assignment designed for failure. The president wants me to learn that just because something is created by people in power doesn’t mean it is to be trusted.
It's one thing to be perfect, it's another thing to be so fucking perfect that even your failures are designed to highlight how fucking awesome you are for fucking figuring every single little itty bitty detail out. Spare me.

Magical Leadership!: Cia is so bloody perfect that everyone wants her. She *wails* Nooooooooooooooo! when she's chosen to be a leader. Because of all the fucking BRILLIANT students at the university, nobody is better designed to lead than Cia, right?

Let me explain the University. It is like the fucking Harvard of the future, if Harvard requires both intelligence, physical ability, and skills, and its students are willing to literally murder one another for better grades, you get the drift.

Ok, maybe not. I've been told that it is pretty much murder to get a better grade than your peers at Harvard...but I digress.

My point is that all the students at the University are tremendously capable, are intellectually brilliant, are completely amazing learners, leader in every way. How else could they have passed the Testing? But out of all of these awe-inspiring, brilliant students, Cia is single-handedly selected to be the best, the brightest. She is hand-selected by the President of the United Commonwealth to be her intern.
"After discussing your Testing results and academic achievements with Dr. Barnes and Professor Holt, I asked that you be assigned to intern in my office." The president’s smile widens. “My office has never been included in the University internship program."
Just fucking awesome. The President has never had an intern before, and has never had interest in an intern before...until Cia.


Insidious Girl Hate: There is no slut shaming, but there is a very strong current of distrust and sly undertones of hate towards the other women in this book. The females in this book, the very brilliant, very capable females, I must mention, are all portrayed as stone-cold, emotionless bitches.

Her close friend, Stacia, is cold. Hard. Determined. Cia is much the same, but somehow, Stacia's determination is portrayed as BAD whereas we're supposed to sympathize with Cia.
Her laugh makes me flinch. It’s cold and practical. Hard. Determined. Stacia is smart, but I’ve often wondered if it’s these other traits that helped her survive The Testing.
She sees competition in other girls, Cia always see something underlying in a common gesture of courtesy.
Himani’s smile is bright, but something about the narrowing of her eyes reminds me of a cat stalking a field mouse.
A girl is "sharp," even when compared to a friendly, smiling boy.
Rawson’s trio is completed by a sweet-faced boy named Enzo and a girl with sharp features called Juliet.
Cia seems to think so much better of the guys than she does her fellow female students. Boys are always described with so much more kindness than other females.
His face is thin and narrow. His smile warm and angelic. Trustworthy.
Boys remind her of her brothers, girls are conniving bitches.
In his fitted black pants, shiny black boots, and deep purple shirt, Ian is more than a little imposing. Until he grins. The sternness disappears, replaced by an exuberance that makes me think of my brother Win.
Red lips. Evil. Scary. The marks of an evil witch that is noted quite pointedly. Even a respected professor is not immune to thecharge.
Her hair is slicked off her face. Her scarlet-painted lips curl into an expression of geniality as she addresses those of us assembled here who are in her charge.
Dressed in deep crimson, Professor Holt stands near the fireplace. Lips that match the color of her jumpsuit are curved into a smile.
Other girls are giggly, pampered, spoiled. Why paint the University as the penultimate institute of education if you're going to put in dumb female character to be insidiously noted by Cia?Not even the President of the United Commonwealth, the most powerful woman in the country, is immune to being painted in a bad light. She is cold, unmaternal, inhuman in her iciness.
Her face is long and angular. Not what most would call beautiful. But the almond-shaped brown eyes and strong jaw would draw attention anywhere. Almost all the United Commonwealth presidents have been female. It has been argued that women are less aggressive, more maternal, and thus more focused on the well-being of the country’s people. Less focused on politics or power. Perhaps this is true, but there is nothing maternal about President Collindar’s appearance or voice. Both carry a shimmer of absolute authority.
There are many men whom Cia trusts in this book. The same cannot be said about the women.

I completely hate the attitude that there can only be one bright, prevailing female presence in a book.
Profile Image for Kathylill .
162 reviews174 followers
January 3, 2014
This is not the fantastic sequel to a fantastic book. This is like waking up next to the guy you met the night before (and who then seemed sexy and attractive) after the alcohol glamour is wearing of, monster headaches cloud your mind and you see that he looks nothing like Brad Pitt, not even remotely. It’s like waking up, going to the bathroom and seeing a female doppelgänger of Heath Ledger ‘The Joker’ in the mirror instead of your usual face, mascara and lipstick inches away from where they were supposed to stay according to the ads and the money you spent on them and an enormous new pimple on your forehead just to make it perfect.

Independent Study is the same disappointment Laura Bickle’s The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) felt like: a 4/5-star-wow-that-was-awesome first installment followed by a 1-star-what-the-fuck-just-happened sequel.

One of the disturber is the subliminal slut shaming
There is one woman only, the President of the United Commonwealth, that isn’t portrayed negatively, but she sports no female attributes either
The president stands seven inches taller than I. Her face is long and angular. Not what most would call beautiful. But the almond-shaped brown eyes and strong jaw would draw attention anywhere … there is nothing maternal about President Collindar’s appearance or voice. Both carry a shimmer of absolute authority.

All other female characters in this story are outright mean, cold, conniving, giggling and simply all of them can’t be trusted. Even the one that comes as close as possible to be a friend like Stacia who spends a lot of time with Cia, can’t be trusted because of that cold smile.
Stacia: "Only a handful of people have the ability to shape their lives and the lives of those around them. To become one of those people, I have to prove I can do whatever is necessary to succeed.” She laughs. "So I will."
Her laugh makes me flinch. It’s cold and practical. Hard.
Determined. Stacia is smart, but I’ve often wondered if it’s these other traits that helped her survive The Testing.

Himanbi Biseck, a dark-skinned girl, is described having a bright smile, "but something about the narrowing of her eyes reminds me of cat stalking a field mouse". Kit, one of the other Testing candidates, tosses her waist-length hair and smiles, amused and smug. Professor Holt, Cia’s adversary, has attributes of a bloody snake, with her hair slicked off her face and the scarlet-painted lips curling or curved into a smile. Why does Cia need to feel superior or better why DOES she feel inferior to other females? Why does the author feel the necessity to single Cia out? I don't know. But even if there was one other kind AND pretty female character it wouldn’t take away from Cia as our main character. Since when is it socially unacceptable to dress up and put on red lipstick or have waist-long hair?

The whole intention of this book is to set Cia up as Leader
If nothing happens to alter Symon’s plans, my brother, the rebels, and hundreds of selected Testing candidates will die. Dr. Barnes and his team will win.
I refuse to let that happen.
But the only way to stop it is to create a new rebellion. A rebellion free of Dr. Barnes’s control.
For that, I will have to step up and be the leader the University is teaching me to be.
Deep in my heart, I hear Michal’s voice whisper the words: "You’re smart, Cia. You’re strong. There are people like me on your side who know you can make it. Please, prove I’m right."

No other character in this book qualifies to lead: not the “helpless” president, or her boyfriend Tomas, not even the leader of the resistance Symon. Face-to-face with Cia’s awesomeness, her specialness, her outstanding superiority it’s a wonder water doesn’t immediately turn to wine. Please wait while I worship the ground she’s walking on. She is really that speshul. Self-doubt and thoughts of suicide - she can overcome it in 5 sentences. Our Cia can overcome fear and terror simply by dreaming to shatter ice walls. Hopeless situation? Haven’t you learned by now? There is no hopeless situation for Cia because there is always something her brother, her father or her teacher told her, some reclusive childhood memory she can relate to even in the middle of danger. She just closes her eyes and thinks. She is the child of Vicky the Viking and MacGyver.

And if not then there is still the BAG. I hated that fucking bag. She packs and repacks that bag at least a thousand times. If she goes out of campus for 2 hours she packs several loaves of bread, apples and pears and even a change of clothes.

She is that outstanding that the University gives her 9 classes whereas all other students have 5 or six. She is that extraordinary that even the goddamn President of the United Commonwealth wants her, and only her. It’s a wonder she doesn’t poop rainbows and shit sparkly diamonds. I would expect nothing less from her.

President Collindar speaks before I can wonder what the reference means. “I was intrigued when we met during your Induction. Of all the students who came into the Debate Chamber, you were the only one who recited the request without error and the only female who made the attempt for her team. Taking that kind of risk in public is often more difficult for women than men. (…) But a girl like you, Malencia, a girl who is willing to risk embarrassment and possible failure by taking control of the Debate Chamber floor will be more likely to tell me what I need to know.”

Hold on a minute while I gag.
Everybody needs her ergo nobody is save from her. She is THE HERO and saves the day every fucking time. Cia is so great she doesn’t need help. She even persuades Tomas, her boyfriend, with a kiss ("I put all my love in the kiss and I know he will do as I ask") to leave her in order to do the dangerous stuff alone, because "she is smaller and faster and will be safer on her own."

The rest of the book made no sense
It would have been pretty interesting to see Cia and Tomas trying to understand the machinations behind The Testing, their first contact to the resistance and also finding like-minded students. But Tomas is for the most part not present, we are being told not shown about the resistance, the conspiracies and the political background. Like-minded students? Maybe there are some, but “YOU CAN’T TRUST THEM” and they are sure as death not female.

I disliked this book so much.
Profile Image for angela .
785 reviews136 followers
May 13, 2020
Unbelievable you have to read too grasp just how good this book/series is. It’s full of passion for what’s right, the determination to change the sadistic system. Yet the passion and corruption on the other side, to keep things status quo. It’s unthinkable what these students are put through when excepted to go off to college for their education. They first need to go through a test of wits, bravery, pressure, problem solving, will to survive, compassion and when to have no compassion.

Once they finish this test the ones who make it go onto college. What a relief right....wrong they never stop being tested. It’s a test of wills and intelligence throughout, between the teachers, a rebel group that isn’t what it was supposed to be, students and a President who seems to be trying to do what’s right!

I’m onto the next book in this amazing series. I can’t wait to find out what happens between these different fractions. Who will have the smarts, patients, tenacity, and be able to out wit the other fractions? I can’t wait to find out. This book and the others in the series are, sit on the edge of your seat, eyes bulging in disbelief, emotional rollercoaster and unpredictable. You’re just not sure if it’s to hell, or salvation.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,014 reviews1,051 followers
September 29, 2014
As a sequel to the Testing, this book is just as amazing. The tests and challenges laid in this story become even more impossible and extremely dangerous as the main characters go through the tests as official university students because this time, the students have to go through the tests while trying to attend every class in their respective fields. They may be already admitted as university students but that does not mean they are safe from severe and life changing punishment of failing a test.

Deeper discoveries and truths get revealed in this book including the whole concept behind the so called university and its role in the society.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,205 reviews147 followers
December 24, 2022
“The Testing was just the beginning”

When I reviewed the opening entry in Joelle Charbonneau’s young adult dystopian trilogy, I wrote,

“If THE TESTING had been written as a school assignment, it undoubtedly would have been categorically rejected and disqualified for blatant plagiarism.”

The similarities between it and Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES were simply too numerous, too obvious, and too complete to be ignored. I did, however, acknowledge that THE TESTING was a well-written, totally gripping novel that would have, in my opinion at least, earned an easy 4- or 5-star rating had I read it first.

So what can one subsequently say about INDEPENDENT STUDY, the second novel in Charbonneau’s trilogy?

Although the similarities persisted, Ms Charbonneau began to give them their own twists and special flavours. The underground movement against the establishment authoritarian government in charge was well established and, if appearances could be trusted, attempted to recruit Cia and Tomas. Unlike the situation in THE HUNGER GAMES, (perhaps taking a page from the reality of the Republican choke hold on the current US governments and Democrat presidential administrations), the president was on the side of right and was working at suppressing the dystopian takeover of Cia’s world.

Suffice it to say, that INDEPENDENT STUDY came sufficiently into its own to warrant a qualified recommendation that was still held to 3-stars as opposed to 4- or 5-stars because of the continuing similarities. But, I’ll say I’m a fan and I’ll definitely be looking for a copy of GRADUATION DAY, the final entry in the trilogy. I’m curious to see where Ms Charbonneau isn’t going to take Cia’s relationship with Tomas!

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews179 followers
June 23, 2013
A friend was kind enough to send me her advance copy of this book, the sequel to my new favorite dystopian series (and perhaps book of 2013), The Testing. There's been a pattern with a lot of the dystopian series titles to fall off in quality significantly in the second book in the series (looking at you specifically, Divergent). Not so with Independent Study.

Taking place not long after The Testing, where Cia is now in the University, taking classes, and otherwise trying to keep her head down while solving the issues in front of her. Of course, as one would expect from a dystopian totalitarian government, they're...kind of on to her. The good news is that the rebel faction is making inroads in the government, and Cia's the next best hope.

The Testing was great not because it broke a lot of new ground, because it didn't, but because it took the dystopian template created in The Hunger Games and Divergent and perfected it. Is Independent Study as good as The Testing? Probably not, but it's different - it relies less on violence and force and more on the thinking processes in order to ensure survival. It abandons the mystery of a bunch of kids fighting over one goal to a larger political conspiracy, which is right down my alley anyway. Even with the template being pretty standard boilerplate, it succeeds in throwing a few curveballs.

This is a great, great page turner. That the final book isn't due for close to a year is heartbreaking, and I'm hoping I can get my hands on the third book early as I did the first two, because waiting is going to be very difficult. Add this to your lists, and get ready for it when it's finally out, because you're not going to want to miss out.
Profile Image for Rachel Maniacup.
153 reviews80 followers
October 23, 2015
This is indeed a great continuation of the first book! It may not be as action packed as the first one,and a bit slower,but there were heart-pounding moments(especially on the Testing games they went through once again).

In this book,Cia and Tomas,along with their fellow freshmen Colony students/candidates were about to meet the students of Tosu when they were sent to University in Tosu City.
In this new environment,Cia gained new friends and perhaps,some enemies that she's struggling to decide who to trust,and who to fear now that things got more political.

I loved how JOELLE CHARBONNEAU fashioned this into a very intriguing plot,and I really think this is an interesting next step in this series.
The twist at the ending blew me away,and I don't know if I'm gonna get over it..unless,I'd get on to its final book now!:)
Profile Image for Blaine.
730 reviews581 followers
January 9, 2023
Independent Study was not bad, but not as good as the first one. This series still seems to be a Diet Coke version of The Hunger Games series. Cia can be a bit repetitive as a narrator. As I feared and predicted, Independent Study is a bit of a ripoff of Catching Fire, with Cia stuck in the middle of a brewing civil war. Still, these books are quick, easy reads, and I liked Independent Study enough that I'll listen to the last book to find out how the series ends.
Profile Image for Ellie M.
118 reviews7 followers
October 5, 2013
Recieved an ARC from The Book Twirps giveaway :)

I had the same problem with the second book as I had with the first-
Cia is the bestest most brightest person in the world.

She is surrounded by the most brightest students in the country.
And yet she is FAR superior. If the brightest were ranked a 10 out of 10. She's be a 100. If you're going to writes a book about everyone being smart, you have to make everyone actually smart.
The only time other student's show that they're smart is if they're working against Cia. But it rarely happens because Cia is the only smart person in the whole university of giftedly smart students.

I love the world and plot and characters. But Cia just seems Way too OP (Over powered) in the intelligence department.

I found myself skimming large amount of this book when Cia droned on like a science teacher explaining why she knew everything in the world. I don't need a page long explanation of why the pink poison ivy plant is bad.

I'll read the last book because I like the PLOT. But I'll most likely be skimming huge chunks and pages when Cia goes into teacher mode.
Profile Image for James Tullos.
293 reviews1,369 followers
November 1, 2021
On the one hand, this one is less overt in how it rips off The Hunger Games. On the other, it replaces the same plot beats with similar ones that are worse in every way. The only positive here is that the characters are trying to fix things wihout starting a violent rebellion, since that would kill a lot of innocents.
Profile Image for Kassidy.
338 reviews11.1k followers
March 5, 2014
Not much better than the first one, this book is pretty much what I expected.
This series is almost like dystopia brain candy. It's just fun and entertaining, but not much substance. The main character, Cia, is just too perfect, but not in a good way! She never does anything wrong and doesn't have any flaws, this gets kinda annoying, it's unrealistic, and I can't connect to her. She is an ok character to read about, and it's interesting how she figures out all of the tests, but there's not much more to her.
Another thing that bothers me about this book is that it doesn't allow you to ask any questions for yourself. Cia asks SO MANY questions in her narration, so therefore, the reader doesn't get to really think about anything. Cia just asks the questions for you. It's like the author wants to make sure you know what you should be questioning and thinking about. It gets a little aggravating and I feel like I'm being babied in a way..
The plot and world is fairly intriguing, but nothing super unique. There are a few cool twists, but nothing that left me speechless. Don't even get me started on the "romance", if you can even call it that. That aspect of the book just weirds me out..
This series is good if you love dystopia and want something light, entertaining, and fast. There is not much else to it.
I will read the next book because I do find the plot interesting and I want to know what happens.
Profile Image for Emily.
243 reviews8 followers
April 14, 2014
I'm giving this three stars because overall, it was a perfectly "fine" second book. It wasn't super terrible like Crossed (my go-to example for disappointing second books), but then again it didn't really wow me.

Since almost everyone had their memories wiped at the end of the first book, the author pretty much just uses the same recipe all over again in this one -- some dangerous tests, a whole lot of untrustworthy people and a heroine that can do no wrong (like literally, she's unrealistically amazing at everything). Unfortunately, readers probably did not have their memories wiped like the characters did, which means for people like me who re-read The Testing recently in order to refresh my memory, Independent Study seemed pretty much exactly the same. For the first half anyway.

The second half of the book was your typical middle book of a YA dystopian trilogy. I've read enough of them by now to recognise the formula:

First book - introduces the dystopian society, characters, etc.

Second book - expands on the dystopian society and the characters, introduces the rebellion (because come on, there's always a rebellion).

Third book - rebellion.

Unless you're Crossed, in which case the second book is comprised of a bit of walking, some poetry and absolutely nothing else. (Sorry. One day I will eventually stop referencing that book in all of my reviews.)

So yeah, the second half of Independent Study is basically the "I love Cia" show, because she's so much more amazing than everyone else and everyone knows it, and thus she is solely responsible for saving the entire world.

I'm not even exaggerating. In the synopsis for the third book, it says that "Testing survivor Cia Vale knows that she alone can lead the rebellion against the government." Yes, because a 17-year-old girl is the only person in the whole world who can do something. I mean, haven't we moved past the whole "Chosen One" phenomenon in literature by now? (Sorry, Harry Potter. I still love you.)

Anyway, it's taken me this massive review pretty much to say that Independent Study was okay. It was fine. I finished it and didn't feel like I wanted to kill myself afterwards. And with some of the books I've read recently (I'm looking at you, Slaughterhouse-Five) that's definitely saying something!
Profile Image for Erica.
1,269 reviews677 followers
June 8, 2014
Joelle Charbonneau has written another enticing read that is filled to the brim with exictement and action and stabbed me in the gut, time and time again. With everything a good dystopian should be, Joelle Charbonneau has continued to raise the stakes and expand this brilliant world.

The questions this book raises are so thought-provoking and powerful, and I love the ease at which they are incorporated into the plot. The stakes are raised in Independent Study to a new high, and I was completely engaged from the get go. I tore through the pages, never wanting to put it down.

As the story moves on, the characters, especially Cia, really come into their own. I enjoyed watching the characters grow as the situations they are presented with require. Michal remains my favorite character of the series, so seeing him pop up again was nice.

The ending killed me. Absolutely killed me. The rapid succession at which this trilogy has come out helps, as the wait is less, and I already am antsy to tear through the pages of Graduation Day.

Independent Study built on the foundation that The Testing started and expanded everything that was great. I continue to love everything about this trilogy and am excited to see which direction Joelle Charbonneau takes the story in the last book.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,249 reviews393 followers
February 1, 2016
A good second book. Our heroine Cia continues to dazzle all with her smarts and her intuition, which saves her and her teammates time and again. Having passed the Testing (Book One), Cia and Will (who tried to kill her in book one) are assigned to the Government specialty department. Cia is selected to lead a team, after solving her first challenge there. Surprisingly, she chooses some local Tosu City ahead of some classmates from her territory. Cia is not trusted, and is saddled with the heaviest course-load and an internship with the President of the Commonwealth. She gets caught in the middle of a political battle, and has to use all of her skills and wits to survive. Not quite as good as the first book, mostly because Cia is too perfect in this one, but I look forward to reading the conclusion.
Profile Image for Nikita.
14 reviews
January 27, 2016
It's just as great as the first book. The challenges required more intellectual prowess than physical which I enjoyed even more. It's plot is fast-paced and the writing is engaging. I can't wait to read the third book.
Profile Image for Esther.
410 reviews25 followers
February 4, 2017
Wat een geweldige serie! Snel door naar het 3, laatste deel.
Profile Image for Grüffeline.
1,047 reviews100 followers
May 22, 2018
2,5 Sterne
Während man zu Beginn des Buches wieder da abgeholt wird, wo der erste Band einen zurückgelassen hat, hat dieses Buch trotz der faszinierenden Welt und der im Grunde interessanten Charaktere seine Längen, ich habe mich größtenteils wirklich gelangweilt, so ungefähr in der Mitte wurde es dann kurzfristig wieder spannend und man hatte ungefähr das selbe Flair wie im ersten Buch. Cia hat immer einfach wie durch Zauberhand die perfekte Lösung für alle Aufgaben, die ihr gestellt werden, was auch den spannenden Stellen irgendwie ihre Spannung nimmt. Gegen Ende kam hingegen doch noch wieder einiges an Spannung auf und ich glaube, der nächste Band könnte sehr interessant werden.
Profile Image for Just a Girl Fighting Censorship.
1,835 reviews112 followers
October 11, 2014
2 1/2 Stars

I have mixed emotions about this one. I'd say that the first third of the book was great and then there was a noticeable decline until we got toward the end a.k.a. the set up for the next book. Yes, this book felt like mostly filler, wrapping up the previous book and setting up the next one. I guess it's difficult to make going to class and doing your homework interesting, especially when you start the book with an exciting and interesting dangerous game full of explosions and snakes!

The only way to make the day to day more interesting is with world building or character development and I'm not real impressed with either in this series. The world that we see is pretty standard for the dystopian genre as of late, a wealthy capitol city surrounded by less wealthy colonies and even less wealthier colonies beyond that. This has all resulted from some type of world war that is pretty vague. One big thing confuses me is the technology, there are hovercrafts and tracking devices and video camera and various mentions of downloading data but they don't have computers? No internet? I'm not even talking about a world wide web, but some form of email or digital communication? No phones? No mail? No television? Not even radios? How does anyone communicate? How does anything get done?

Then there's the character development. I kind of want to punch Cia in the face, like 75% of the time. Her internal monologue sounds like an after school special, My parents raised me to never waste paper...my parents taught be to be kind and value all life...back home we work together to make the world the best it can be...

Ugh! Put a sock in it, we get it, you're the goody two shoes hero of the story.

Then there are the cliche female lead tropes, she skips like half of her meals, she is tiny and slim, she has some sort of Florence Nightingale complex, and she's pretty. This is mentioned a few times by other male characters. People will expect less of you because you're pretty....I always want to help a pretty girl...

I get it, she's perfect, but guess what? Perfect gets boring.

Overall, this book has great moments of suspense and excitement but it is also predicable and the plot really flounders in the middle and ends with a terribly terrible twist Recommended for fans of the Hunger Games who are willing to lower their expectations.

Profile Image for Amy.
54 reviews1 follower
September 23, 2022
Ging er weer snel doorheen en blijft een leuke serie. Was iets politieker en iets minder spelachtig waardoor ik hem ieets minder leuk vond dan het eerste deel, maar alsnog heel leuk en zin in het laatste deel.
Profile Image for Melanie.
119 reviews
May 29, 2015
Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau is the second book of The Testing trilogy. The book leaves off a few months after the events in book one. Cia is now a student at the university in Tosu City. Everything is suppose to be fine now that Cia is at the university, but Cia still has vague memories about her time in the Testing causing her to question the motives of her friends and the Commonwealth's leaders. I absolutely loved The Testing and was very excited to start this book.

Independent Study certainly lives up to it's expectations. This book has just the right amount of action to keep it's readers engaged. Much like The Testing it has the characters doing puzzles/challenges to beat their other classmates. I love how the author made the characters complete the puzzles. The puzzles or challenges keep you engaged, you're always wondering what's next or how can the characters possibly complete them. A lot of people would compare this book series to The Hunger Games trilogy, but this book series is far from being like The Hunger Games.

I love Cia she's a very relatable character. She always tries to do what's right, even if the person she's helping is being a real douchebag. I could easily identify with Cia, like how she wants to do well in school, but not hurt or push down others in the process.

There is a good amount of surprises and twists to keep the reader engaged. While there is romance, it doesn't get in the way of the story.

Overall I loved Independent Study and I can't wait to read the last book. I give it 5+ stars.
Profile Image for Becky.
37 reviews14 followers
June 24, 2022
“Because sometimes the best leaders are the ones who have no interest in leading. Those are often the ones who are most interested in doing what is right, not what is popular.”

“A cage that cannot be seen is no less there than if the walls were made of steel.”

“History shows that it takes only a spark to start a fire that cannot be easily checked.”

“The best leaders make mistakes and then learn from them. The best leaders never make the same mistakes again. The only way you can learn is if you understand the mistakes that were made.”
Profile Image for Serena (The Book Comedian).
124 reviews168 followers
June 6, 2014
I feared when I read some of the low rating reviews on this book, but now that I have finished it, I conclude that it's not bad.

The first book was filled with so much adrenaline pumping moments that I think it's pretty hard for a second book to exceed that. I can tell the author tried to add action packed elements to this one and I would say I wish there was more, but really, the plot just wouldn't work if there was any more action.

One con I'd mention would be the amount of suspicion that goes on in every one's head.

Suspicious Hermione

Every moment there is suspicion, suspicion, suspicion. 'Is he/she doing this/saying this because they truly want to help me or to sabotage me?' Literally no one can trust anyone. I mean I can't blame them since they live in a pretty messed up world, but as a reader it can become repetitive.

So yes I did like the first book better but I'm not giving up on Cia & Tomas<3 :)
Profile Image for Amy.
286 reviews
August 23, 2015
Een woord: WAUW! Wat is dit boek goed zeg, vergeleken met deel een. Ik las elk hoofdstuk op het puntje van mn stoel, het was elke keer weer spannend en de hele tijd gebeurd er wel iets. Cia is ook echt een toffe hoofdpersoon. Ik ben enthousiast! Hopelijk is het slotdeel net zo goed.
August 27, 2014
I feel like I am looking for myself. Staring into the rocky void is like peering into a reflector of my emotions.

Wow. And once again Joelle Charbonneau has managed to creep me out and keep me on the edge of my seat. I think it goes without saying that terror comes in many forms. But Joelle has mastered the less apparent and infrequently used disquieting terror. It's really hard to get under my skin when it comes to telling a story where we are supposed to be scared because of speculation-it's all how you look at the story. If you just read on a surface level, it's not hard to skim through the book with little emotion and cast it off as if there isn't something deeper and more sinister going on. But both The Testing and Independent Study have made me think twice, made me delve deeper into the story to try and figure out what's going on, why things are happening, and only then does it really begin to sink in how horrifying this whole testing and university process is.

In between the words are only silence and the pulsing of my heart marking the passing of the seconds. Minutes. Maybe hours. Time stands still. During this time, I think of Tomas and wonder what trial he is facing in his own Induction. I wish he were here with me now to help keep me safe. A whirring sound followed by a jubilant shout pulls me from my thoughts, but my prison door does not open.

Cia is in, she has done it. She passed the testing in the first book, and now all she has to do is pass a test and get through induction to become a true student at the university and receive her internship. But what if, again in this story, a wrong answer means certain death? Oh, it's plastered with the phrase 'you will be redirected', but if you are told you are getting 'redirected', you better run, and run fast.

A cage that cannot be seen is no less there than if the walls were made of steel.

After candidates of the testing passed, they immediately had their memories erased. The events that led to passing were gruesome, disturbing, and most of all-evil. There is no other word for it. The testing officials can't have their students remembering what they had to do to get to where they are now, can they? Because what they would remember is far too hard to fathom; to believe that they were capable of murder, lying, betrayal, defending their lives against someone they used to call a friend.....it's almost impossible to move on from that. How can you sit next to someone that ultimately tried to shoot their crossbow at you, shot you in the stomach with a gun you didn't realize they had, left you behind-no one would ever get past it. This kind of scenario was not what Cia pictured when she optimistically hoped for a chance to be chosen for the testing-to get the chance to be a united commonwealth leader in charge of making their cities a better place. It's unheard of that the leaders would push this fate on the brightest hopes for the future of humanity...or is it?

"....sometimes the best leaders are the ones who have no interest in leading. Those are often the ones who are most interested in doing what is right, not what is popular."

While the people who haven't been redirected after the testing are assigned and taking their classes, there are yet again more tasks they are forced to confront where the same thing is happening again-you can't trust anyone because everyone is fighting for the highest spot in their respective fields, and once again the ominous feeling takes hold, causing you to beg Cia not to trust this person, to not leave her residence at night, to leave that evil person behind because they will kill her to get ahead...

But that's why I love Cia. She is smart, brave, and makes all the most well-thought out decisions possible. I know many people might not understand the appeal of hearing her calculate and think every scenario out, but that's why I like this series. This author has created a world where you can't make a move without thinking about it long and hard first-even something as simple as whether or not she should eat in the common room is a big deal. One wrong move and she could be pulled from her studies and 'redirected'. I love Cia because she is compassionate and kind, even to those who threaten her with her life-she would never leave anyone behind. So I decided to make a new shelf-one for the great heriones in the literary world. As of now I can only think of one or two other girls/women I will put on there, so that speaks highly of what I think of this rational and caring girl.

When Tomas steps back, he whispers that he will see me in the morning. That he loves me and that no matter what our fields of study, we are still a team. We will always be a team. With one last gentle kiss, he disappears down the hall to find sleep. I turn to the same.

Ultimately I could go on and on about the dangers lurking in the shadows ready to stab Cia in the back, but I think I've made my point clear. While not as terrifying as the first, which I would have loved, I still enjoyed this story a lot and finished it within 24 hours. I would have loved to see more of Tomas because I love what he and Cia have went through together, but when he finally started appearing in the story a little more I was satsified with what I got. I know this isn't a romance, but, hey, underneath it all I'm a romance girl, what can I say? I cannot wait to see what happens in book three when it comes out this summer, and I will read it immediately upon release-Cia is faced with the ultimate challenge. Now that it's time for action...who can she REALLY trust? Guess we'll find out not soon enough. ;)

And when Tomas's lips find mine, the kiss is filled with passion and the hope that even if war comes, we will survive.

For more of my reviews visit

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Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,805 followers
February 10, 2017
Well, again I wish i could give a 3.5 rather than a 4. We pick up here where we left off in the first book.

The book is still pretty fast moving and the characters are pretty much themselves. Also the plotting works pretty well with some twists (you may see coming) and the world is moving the way we saw it moving (aside from a couple of intended surprises).

The problem is there are some huge logic holes in the plot. There are things that we're asked to accept that strain our suspension of disbelief muscles to the breaking point. Also the the plot twist I mentioned is probably one most readers (except of course the youngest who haven't read many books) will see coming.

Look the book is still pretty good and I had no trouble staying interested in it. I think most will like it (if you like the first you'll probably like this one). It just isn't going to make my favorites.
Profile Image for  ღ suus ღ.
157 reviews12 followers
July 13, 2017
Ik zie nu dat het meer dan een jaar geleden is dat ik deel 1 las. In mijn review schreef ik snel deel 2 te gaan lezen maar toch heeft het nog even geduurd. (iets met een lange TBR lijst :-/ )

Maar goed. Deel 2 zojuist uitgelezen. En ook over dit deel ben ik weer razend enthousiast. De schrijfstijl zorgt er ook voor dat ik het gevoel kreeg alsof ik er zelf bij was. Ook is Joelle Charbonneau is een getalenteerd schrijfster wat betreft cliffhangers!.. na ieder hoofdstuk wil je gewoon verder lezen.
Daarnaast heeft ze ervoor gezorgd dat ik weer even uit mijn maandenlange leesdip gesleurd ben.
Dusssss op naar deel 3!.. ik ben benieuwd naar het einde. Cia .. ik vertrouw op je : )

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