Book Review – Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau with bonus e-prequel The Testing Guide

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Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547959206
ISBN-13: 978-0547959207
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 stars

I Purchased this book at a Barnes & Noble.

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

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.

If you read my review of THE TESTING, then you already know what I think of Charbonneau’s writing. She improved her ability to show-don’t-tell in INDEPENDENT STUDY, but added several more irritations to my list, but I’ll only talk about two. First, she would describe a decimated area:

To the southwest, I see grass, shriveled trees, and grayish soil. An area yet to be revitalized.

That in itself, not so bad. I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s her problem?” But Charbonneau did this numerous times. She does an excellent job of painting a picture, then TELLS the reader it is an unrevitalized area. She’s not trusting the reader to understand what she is saying.

Next, there are pages of description, world building, and back story for things that don’t really matter. For example, she takes almost two pages to explain why there are chicken coops at the University. Two pages. Like it even matters. And that wasn’t the only time, but I won’t list them all. The point is she succumbed to the second-novel-syndrome of writing whatever you feel like because it’s going to get published anyway. J.K. Rowling can get away with this. Christopher Paolini can get away with this. Charbonneau can not.

Okay, I’m done. Now I’ll just talk about the story.

We find Cia at the University, not remembering what happened, but she has discovered the transit communicator and its recordings. Confused and upset, she doesn’t know whether to believe what it tells her, or believe the smiling faces of her University professors. Charbonneau delivers a similar amount of suspense as Cia navigates tests designed to find out if she’ll make a good leader in the United Commonwealth. Lucky for her she never has to fail at anything. I get that she’s intelligent, resourceful and all around amazing, but really, she never fails. Not once that I can remember. I think I would have liked to see her struggle a little more.

Tomas, her love interest, is still present and the reader is left wondering if Tomas had anything to do with Zandri’s death in the previous novel, and whether he took the pills designed to prevent his memory loss. Both plot threads are resolved with very little drama. The only drama is waiting for the reveal. It was fine, and Cia reacted accordingly, but I thought that could have been given more of a plot twist.

We see a little more of Will in this novel, but not much. Since we already know about his character from THE TESTING (though his memory has been erased) he doesn’t show too much in this book. He’ll probably get more playing time in the final book, but I was disappointed to see this left out.

Zeen makes an appearance, which promises some great interaction for the next book, but it was pretty much just a bridge to the finale. Once again, could have used more of him.

We are introduced to a few more interesting characters, which I’m sure is set up for Cia’s team to defeat the Testing in book 3. We also lose a character we’ve come to know and care about, but I won’t say who.

Overall, I’d say this book was mostly set up for book 3. There is some excitement and it was interesting, but since I’m personally having difficulty getting past the lax writing, the adventure didn’t carry it for me this time. Besides, you can only read so much about testing teens before it gets a little old hat. I will probably end up buying the third book when it comes out, but that has more to do with my obsessive need to have a matched set of books on my shelf. And my need to see the story finished. Even if I’m not that interested anymore. I’m hoping it will be like some trilogies where the second book isn’t so great, but the final book ends up being decent.

My review: 2/5 stars


Not much to say here. It was only about a chapter long. And about Cia’s brother, Zeen, which was kind of cool. If it cost anything, I’d say don’t bother, but if you enjoy these books and you want a little insight into Zeen’s character, go ahead and make the download. I won’t even bother giving it stars. There just wasn’t enough to judge.

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Coming June 17th, 2014 . . .

Buy Graduation Day (The Testing) on