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.
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.
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!
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.
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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(Click the cover to see my review!)