Tag Archives: Joelle Charbonneau

NEED – Joelle Charbonneau

NEED – Joelle CharbonneauTitle: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
Publishing Info: November 3, 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 30, 2015
Related Posts: The Testing (The Testing #1), Independent Study (The Testing #2)

Teenagers at Wisconsin's Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

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My experience with Joelle Charbonneau’s Testing Trilogy was a bit of rocky ride but nonetheless, I was super intrigued by NEED! I always love a good mystery and/or thriller and that seems to be a genre that’s gaining popularity in the past year or so in YA and looks like it will continue to grow in the years to come! I was anxious to read NEED in the hopes that it would be a book that totally turned my world upside down!

NEED started out with an interesting concept: a social media network for a small-town Wisconsin high school. It’s invite-only and students who wish to join have to invite a certain number of people (and later on, perform a certain tasks) in order for their NEED to be approved. I felt like this concept was incredibly intriguing and really could have gone so many different ways to totally hook me. Like The Testing Trilogy though, the execution just started to feel melodramatic, over-done, and really just not realistic.

The characters in this book were just awful people. Pretty much every student at this high school seemed willing to do some pretty deplorable things in order to get what they wanted (let’s be honest — they weren’t really needs), and it was pretty disgusting how easily they were able to talk themselves into thinking that what they were doing wasn’t really wrong. By the end of the book, even the main characters were starting to lose some serious moral guidance and it was just so hard for me to like anyone in the book because of that. I’ve read plenty of books where bad things have happened to characters, they’ve sought revenge, they’ve had to protect themselves or possibly use violence against another person, but usually that’s in the heat of battle or in self-defense. NEED just felt like a group of selfish brats who were willing to use people to get what they wanted and felt that they were entitled to do so and I think that was really the scariest thing about the book.

None of the characters seemed to have a lot of depth, either. I was already disconnected from them considering I was seriously questioning their actions but I didn’t really see that internal struggle or a moral battle to figure out if what they were asking for was really worth what they were doing. There were a lot of POV switches — both switching from character to character and switching actual points of view from first to third when switching — and I’m sure that didn’t help me get a grip on the characters either. Instead of showing me a new point of view, I felt like it took focus away from the main characters by spending a short amount of time with a secondary or even tertiary character that didn’t offer much in the way of personality or plot anyway.

I was hoping the ending would really bring things back around and leave me feeling a bit better about the book overall but sadly, I didn’t really enjoy the way it was handled. I had a hunch on how it might end and I was both right and wrong at the same time but in the opposite ways that I had hoped. There was a solid explanation of who was behind NEED and why it was created and yet I didn’t find it satisfying. Again, it felt like a far-fetched idea and didn’t really make any sense to me.

I was super bummed out that I didn’t enjoy NEED because I love supporting local authors and I’ve met Joelle Charbonneau a few times and she’s just so sweet! It’s sad to say that I think I just don’t click with her writing. It seems like too many things that add shock value are there just for shock value and there isn’t a real concrete explanation why they happen. I was hoping this would be the turning point for me with her writing but unless a future book gets rave reviews, I just don’t think I’ll be picking up another one of her books any time soon.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

need goodreads updates

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Kaylee // Character Obsessions: Family, NEED, finding a donor. 
Kaylee was… hard to read about. It was so incredibly painful to watch her search for a kidney donor for her brother — not because she was doing just that but the way she went about it. Look, you can’t go around school expecting your classmates to donate a kidney to your brother. A) It’s not you. B) They’re mostly minors. C) It’s creepy. D) It’s a HUGE freaking thing to ask of a relative much less a kid who barely knows you except for seeing you around the halls of the high school and may not even know your brother at all. She just was awkward and weird and I had some serious issues.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Hating bad characters. I admittedly sort of liked when the characters were so awful that I… started to cheer when bad things happened to them. *hangs head in shame*
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. This book just didn’t feel realistic at all and the far-fetchedness of it made it feel super hokey.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

Usually I know when my less-than-favorable ratings are a it’s-not-you-it’s-me situation but this isn’t one I’d recommend. It’s not TERRIBLE and I made it through and it was thankfully fast-paced but I wouldn’t really say “go read it”. If the ending was better, I’d say give it a chance but it didn’t even wrap up well for me.

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BOOKS LIKE NEED

(Click the cover to see my review!)

HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME    KILLER INSTINCT

Independent Study (The Testing #2) – Joelle Charbonneau

Independent Study (The Testing #2) – Joelle CharbonneauTitle: Independent Study (The Testing #2) by Joelle Charbonneau
Publishing Info: January 7, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: BEA 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 25, 2013
Related Posts: The Testing (The Testing #1), NEED

    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.  

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I guess I shouldn’t start off a review by saying that I almost didn’t read this book but… I feel like I must disclose that! After reading THE TESTING last year and feeling like it too-closely resembled THE HUNGER GAMES (not just because it’s a dystopian but really in so many ways), I almost didn’t pick up INDEPENDENT STUDY. I was just so torn on whether I would really enjoy it or if I would still see those parallels and feel unable to separate myself from that idea. What I can say is that I decided to read it thanks to encouragement from Nicole at The Quiet Concert (thanks for the encouragement!!!!)  and although I wasn’t stuck on THE HUNGER GAMES parallels, it still didn’t quite knock me off my feet.

I liked INDEPENDENT STUDY… But I almost didn’t. The beginning was very slow to me. It wasn’t that nothing was happening but I just was still very unsure in what direction the book — and the series, actually — was taking me. THE TESTING ended with quite the epic finale, including a shocking cliffhanger and INDEPENDENT STUDY kind of did where we left off… So maybe that’s actually the reason it was slow for me. I almost feel like it would have benefitted from some time in between the two books and backtracking through the story to fill in what we’ve missed. It sounds crazy, right? Isn’t that the kind of stuff that normally confuses me and I get frustrated with? Yes. It is. But for this book, I feel like that would have worked because I wanted both me as the reader and Cia as the main POV to be more… in the dark. I can’t really say any more because of book one spoilers and honestly going in, I had no expectations or an idea that that’s what I wanted so it wasn’t even a let down of expectations. I was just… restless.

I actually appreciated the content of this book more than the first, I think. While THE TESTING set up necessary elements, characters, and world building, INDEPENDENT STUDY really started to explore those elements and how Cia would ultimately fit in and how she could change things. I know, I know, you’re saying, “Well duh, that’s what a book two should do!” But trust me — it doesn’t always. That being said, INDEPENDENT STUDY also felt like a totally different book in many ways. I think it matured a lot from its predecessor and the content went much deeper than Cia’s experience in the Testing. Things got much more political and the stakes were higher when it came time for Cia to decide who to trust and who to fear.

There were a few twists involved in the second half of the book but I was torn whether I liked them or not. The one big twist I’m thinking of I’m still very hesitant about because it hasn’t been developed yet but I guess that’s something for me to find out in book three! In all honesty, I was almost surely not picking up book three — which is called GRADUATION DAY, coming in June — and I almost didn’t even pick up book two! I’m actually glad that I did because I enjoyed it and it was a quick, fun read once the ball got rolling. I’ll be looking forward to book three to finish off the series but admittedly, I won’t be running to the shelves to get it.

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Cia // Character Obsessions: Surviving in the real world, spending time with Tomas when she can, fulfilling her role as a good student, subterfuge.
Subterfuge. How much did I just want to use that word? (It’s true, either way.) Cia doesn’t have it easy. She’s torn between what she knew and what she knows now and all of the things she used to know and doesn’t anymore. She doesn’t know who to trust and I really appreciated seeing things from her POV because I was pretty wary of MOST people myself. She gets betrayed a few times and finds unlikely allies in other places and I think she does a pretty dang good job of holding it together! Are we BFFs? Not quite, but I admire her courage and determination! Oh, and her keen intellect because she’s a lot smarter than I am!
Michal // Character Obsessions: Hidden agendas, helping Cia, more subterfuge.
More subterfuge. Yes. Hmm, Michal. I was always wary of him, never quite sure if he was on the side of good or corrupt. I had a hard time trusting him and wasn’t sure if Cia should too which made his role in this book all the more interesting! I was actually really happy to see more involvement from him!
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Kept Me Hooked On: The Testing Series. I almost didn’t even pick this book up because I didn’t have a driving force to push me to continue with the series, but I’m glad I did. (And thanks to Nicole for the push!) I’ll be finishing the series now because I’m curious to see how it all wraps up!
Left Me Wanting More: Mind games. Dare I say I wanted more politics in this book? Okay. I wanted more politics. The university students in this book go through more training and challenges that were similar to the Testing so while that added another aspect of how they worked together and figuring out who was smart and who was not to be trusted, I wanted even MORE of a political aspect and MORE of the rebellion. INDEPENDENT STUDY really started to explore that aspect but I wish it had been more of a primary focus instead of more game-type deals.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’re already invested in The Testing trilogy and you’re thinking about picking this one up, it’s still a good read! I had a few reservations while reading but the ending really picked up and I ended up enjoying it over all.

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BOOKS LIKE INDEPENDENT STUDY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          Catching Fire            Insurgent

The Testing (The Testing #1) – Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing #1) – Joelle CharbonneauTitle: The Testing (The Testing #1) by Joelle Charbonneau
Publishing Info: May 4, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 23, 2013
Related Posts: Independent Study (The Testing #2), NEED

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

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There has been so much buzz about THE TESTING so I’m excited that I was able to receive an ARC to review and share my opinion with everyone before the book comes out on June 4th! If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you probably know that the whole reason I even got into YA was because I was dying for more dystopians. I was in a huge dystopian kick with books like The Hunger Games, Matched, and Delirium so you can image how excited I was when I heard several comparisons that THE TESTING was the next Hunger Games!

I will say that I can’t deny the similarities I noticed between THE TESTING and THG. Yes, it is dystopian so, okay, there will be elements in there that the “classic dystopian” will most likely contain, but I’m not talking about those. The thing that stood out to me most was watching Cia, our main character, be taken away from her family to participate in “The Testing” which if you’re not familiar with the summary is a series of rigorous mental and physical tests/situations to determine if the United Commonwealth’s smartest teens are worthy enough to move onto the University and be groomed as the nation’s next group of leaders. Where I saw the similarity and just couldn’t shake it was seeing a sort of “first half” where Cia is figuring out secrets about The Testing and getting to know her fellow candidates and a “second half” where they are all out in the “field” so-to-speak (which I likened to the arena in THG) and the students decided whether to work together or battle against each other. I can’t really say whether it was good or bad that it reminded me of THG. On the one hand, it was a book that I truly loved (still do) and both books had great female heroines and exciting action! On the other hand, I couldn’t get that comparison out of my mind and it made me feel like the story was a tiny bit unoriginal. Hard to say since so many dystopians will seem similar just because they share genres!

I really did enjoy all of the action in this book. There were some extremely tense moments, although I wish some were drawn out longer, and some shocking twist of events. The Testing is designed to truly put these kids through the wringer so it brings out the best in some and the worst in others and at times I was truly surprised to see people’s true colors!

Honestly, my favorite aspect of the book was the mind games between the Testing officials and Cia. Cia’s intelligence level is probably the highest out of all of the kids based on her assessments of the officials as well as her fellow Testing candidates. Those little twists and turns in the plot were really the most exciting part for me! No spoilers of course, but the ending totally hooked me in and has me anxiously awaiting book two! Upon finishing, I was actually really glad it ended the way it did. The ending could have gone two different ways, and in the first, I think it would have closed the book off and made for a more wrapped-up ending. The way the book actually ended definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and in anticipation of the rest of the series! I truly have no idea what is to come!

I think dystopian fans will enjoy this one! If you’re looking for a comparison, I totally saw it as a mix of the feels from The Hunger Games and Divergent. Strong stuff, right!?

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Cia: To be brutally honest, Cia is no Katniss for me, but I loved so many things about her. One thing that really got me was her truly honest and genuinely caring personality. True, she may have been a bit naive because of it, but she stayed true to her character the whole book and it created a lot of interesting situations when your characters is trusting of her peers in situations that she maybe shouldn’t be!
Tomas: Tomas was Cia’s friend from back home in Five Lakes and is our main romance in the book. One thing I really liked about him was how his character — in Cia’s eyes — was constantly changing. Cia knew him from home, but he wasn’t a really close friend until they started up their whirlwind romance in the Testing. It’s interesting to see Tomas through Cia and try to figure out all of his little secrets!

addiction_factor1Try it

I enjoyed the book… buuuut it felt a bit TOO Hunger Games-y for me. I had fun reading it but I’m not 100% sure about the trilogy…

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE TESTING

     Catching Fire      Divergent