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on June 24, 2014
While I thought The Testing was not without flaws(and the actual closet to The Hunger Games from Dystopia books I have read), I enjoyed it immensely, but I’m quite disappointed with Independent Study. It was mostly boring, which contributed to my lack of enjoyment, but by far the biggest flaw I found with Independent Study was the protagonist, Cia Vale.

Cia is the best and brightest girl you could ask for. She is flawless. She has advanced knowledge of things you would never even consider. She knows when to give up. Her intuition guides her and her intuition is never, ever wrong. She is a special snowflake of the highest level. She is perfect and almost personality-less. She is a Mary-Sou. In fact, I would say Cia is the most Mary-Su character I have ever read in a published book. Maybe there were some that could give her a run for her money in my fanfiction-reading days, but for an actual, published work? Cia’s the best at that too.

She leads a team brilliantly. Everyone else who has made it to the university is selected to take five or six classes, maybe seven if they’re really bright. But not Cia. Oh, no, because Cia is THE brightest. The entire world hinges on her being able to fix everything. So she gets nine classes. She grapples a little emotionally, but as far as intelligence goes? No one else even comes close to her. She gets to intern with the leader of the country, and so on and so on. Cia’s perfection was infuriating. I remember this being a bit of a problem in The Testing, but I certainly don’t remember it being to this extent(or I never would have finished).
Cia, as narrator, also loves to tell us everything about everything. There would be paragraphs of Cia explaining non-relevant information, which made the beginning of Independent Study quite slow. It finally picked up in the middle, but it never got terribly exciting. The most exciting parts were reminiscent of the first book. The university students have to complete a challenge that’s quite similar to what they did in The Testing. Now, this can be okay if done right(see Catching Fire with its games and new arena), but it’s just sort of. . . well, boring in Independent Study. It feels to similar to the first book.

While there’s a new plot development in Independent Study, I don’t feel it was strong enough to carry this book. The idea of rebellion, which we learn about towards the beginning of the story, is the only strength of the book, and it’s just not enough(though it’s probably enough to make me read the final book just to see how it ends, so, you know, it must work on some small level). It’s definitely a perk in the book’s favor. I just wish there were more of those perks.
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on January 7, 2014
This is a really good Second Book and keeps the heartbeat pumping as Cia and Will (who tried to kill her in book one) try to pass the dangerous Induction into their new training. Tomas is still in the story, but has a much more minor role since he is not assigned to the same specialty department as Cia. I missed Tomas whose role is even smaller in this book. I am all for strong female characters, but poor Tomas is outshined by Cia on all fronts. She just might be too much woman for him - or any guy, really.

Cia finds her brother Zeen's transit Communicator in her possession and remembers how to turn on the mechanism that has recorded her message to herself. She wanted to remind herself of the atrocities that happened during the testing including Will's violence and her suspicion about Tomas's part in Zandri's death since she knew her memories would be erased. At first she doesn't want to believe that what she recorded is true, but as she starts having nightmares that seem so real, she starts to remember.

"Thinking something is true doesn't make it so; Perception is almost as important as reality".

In her new department, Ian is her mentor and seems to be a good guy full of integrity and wanting to help her. Will is also in her group and while she is wary of him, she is happy to have someone she knows at her side. There are many new students from Tosu City that didn't have to go through the Testing who are given favorable treatment because they are locals. While they didn't have to go through the Testing, they are also not prepared that their "Induction" can be lethal and that failure means death or Redirection, as those in charge like to call it. Cia is determined to find ways to help the resistance (the gray haired man from the fence) and help abolish the horrible Testing methods.

"It was believed this separation of powers of powers would prevent the detrimental politics of the past from intruding on the government of the future. Instead, it gave the head of Testing and his staff autonomy to run the Testing without oversight or retribution from the central government. In short, dr. Barnes is free to run the Testing as he sees fit, and under the current law, those who challenge him could be arrested for treason".

The one area that needs work is Cia and Tomas's romance which isn't any more exciting than it was in book one. They are happily in love, but when Cia realizes that there are too many secrets between them, she backs away. Cia is always the smartest one in the group, and while she is strong and independent, she is also a little too incredible. She easily solves difference equations and knows what viscoelasticity is and figures out all the lessons the Induction is trying to teach: teamwork, trust, government procedure and failure. She is NEVER wrong. At least, Tomas seems to be smart enough to exist on his own and hide his own secrets.

While Cia is quite incredible, I really enjoy this dystopia and can't wait for the next book. It is inventive, threatening, and amazing. I highly recommend it.

Would I/Did I buy it? Yes
Would I read it again? Yes
Would I recommend it to friends? Yes
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on November 9, 2014
When I finished this book, I thought one thing: did this book even have a plot? Oh yes, yes it did. The plot was to show how incredibly perfect, brilliant and amazing Cia is. By the middle of the book, I was thinking "okay, okay, I get it. she's freaking awesome. MOVE ON ALREADY!" Seriously, she has NINE classes, when other students have five. Yeah. she excels at every single class with no problem. She excels at every single test in the Induction challenge. She is the one who guesses the answer to the problem every single time. And then what happens when there is one challenge that is designed for failure and the lesson is for the teammates to give up? Oh yeah, Cia is the one to figure that out and it only takes about 2.5 seconds. She even excels at the test given by the President of the Commonwealth as part of her internship. Ugh, annoying!

I thought this book was supposed to have a rebellion plot, but that was apparently just a subplot because Cia's brilliance was much more important. Supposedly, she was a spy for the rebellion movement but she sucked at it. She didn't find out anything particularly brilliant for the cause. In fact, NOTHING happened with the rebellion at all, other than a few secret meetings. But I am sure the final book in the trilogy will paint her as the hero who saves everyone all by herself, even while maintaing a perfect grade in all of her nine classes.

And was anyone else annoyed by the "relationship" with Tomas? First of all, she had ZERO relationship with him back home. From what was said in the book, she sat beside him in class and had one dance with him a year ago. THAT'S IT. And yet, she does nothing but whine about how he is her only link to her home and how she knows how honest and trustworthy he is because of all their history together. Yeah, because you can totally tell how honest someone is by their dancing skills. Even when she has evidence that he did something atrocious during the Testing (no spoilers), she doesn't care! This relationship just felt forced and I couldn't sense any chemistry between them at all.

And I seriously think the author kept describing Cia's nightmares just to fill pages. Every. single. night. And if I heard one more time about how sad she was to kill someone who was ATTACKING her, I was going to scream. And when someone she HATES or doesn't even know dies, she acts like it's a Greek tragedy. I couldn't even tell the difference between her grief over a stranger and her grief over a friend. It was all the same.

I am not sure why I finished this book because I kept muttering to myself about how annoying this character was. I am sure I will read the last one, just to see how Cia is able to save the day.
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on August 24, 2014
Independent Study was a decent follow up to The Testing, but this book really was a “second book syndrome” kind of book for me. It was just a bridge between the first book (which was awesome) and the (what I hope will be epic) conclusion to the series. I didn’t have any strong feelings one way or another about the plot until the very end, when the setup for Graduation Day was initiated.
My major complaint about this book (and the series, really) is how know-it-all Cia seems. She is just always right and it gets annoying. I was happy to see that addressed in Independent Study a bit. Cia is given a course load that is much harder than her classmates in order to make her fail and get… um… redirected. But she needs to show no fear and can’t mention that she’s struggling in order to succeed. That at least showed that the author realized how know-it-all of a character she wrote. I also was very irritated at all the explaining this book did. Honestly they are in a university setting. Can we not act like we need to dumb it down for children? I really did not need Cia to explain in great detail how a snare works. And all that summarizing and explaining everyone’s thoughts and motivations got a little old too. Please treat me a little like I’m an intelligent reader, ok?
I did like the secrets that were shared toward the end and the issues raised that create the plot line for the final book. We finally find out who the grey-haired man in the first book is, and what his plans really are. I always wondered why she was picked and why he helped her during the Testing, and it is kind of addressed in this second book. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up, but I’m not as impressed with this second installment of The Testing Trilogy.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon June 1, 2014
Independent Study is not a bad book per se; however, quirks that didn't bother me as much with the first book became problematic by the second. Yes, Cia is a bit too smart and figures everything out. But ultimately, that the characters talk like textbooks with very few colloquialisms made the story and characters feel very artificial to me. This was exacerbated by a narrator on Audible who also couldn't make the words sound natural and instead felt like she was reading off a card, with odd breaks in the overly wordy dialogue.

Story: Cia has passed the testing but now faces the challenges of induction. She's been chosen as a leader for government and her life is just as perilous and decisions just as critical as during the Testing. Lives will be lost, she will face betrayal, but she will also be given hope for the first time. Cia will have to learn quickly: for every mistake she makes, someone will die.

Unlike most dystopian books, the government isn't all evil nor populated with moustache twirling bad guys. Characters are good and bad and each have their own motivations for what they do. While this book did not peg my implausibility meter quite as frequently as other dystopians, there were still some questions about why the government is so stupid/allows Cia the chances she gets to learn more about them. The old "hiding behind an object just in time to overhear incriminating words from the bad guys' was more than a bit too much.

As noted before, the dialogue here became very stilted by book two. I didn't mind it as much in book one - I greatly appreciate a character who acts with maturity and thoughtfulness. But when every character seems to be the same way, it does lead to monotony. I began to wish for a character who would actually speak in sentences less long than an entire paragraph. It's the type of writing that sounds good in your head but when said outloud, you soon realize how stilted and unnatural it sounds. On the audible version, it really became problematic.

I will continue to read the series through to the last book. I've read some really poor YA dystopians lately and this is definitely not among them. But at the same time, I would have liked this better without the endless textbook dialogue or supernaturally gifted main character.
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on January 9, 2014
So many dystopian YA books these days are simply… out there They all keep trying to raise the bar as far as shock value, dire situations, action, intensity and romance. Gone are the days when the dystopian novel focused on the political or personal outcomes of a deranged society. I remember the horror I felt in my belief that the simple life depicted in 1984 by George Orwell – which presented a world where all hope was lost - might actually happen. There was very little fanfare and barely any action, but the book delivered in what it intended to do. That being said…

The Testing series by Joelle Charbonneau and INDEPENDENT STUDY, the second book in the dystopian tale, is one that I can highly recommend with no reservations. This dystopian rings true and sits comfortably among 1984, the Article 5 series by Kristen Simmons and, yes, even The Hunger Games. Oddly enough, fans of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling may also take interest in The Testing and INDEPENDENT STUDY – at least when it comes to the manner in how the author tells her story. The flow and ebb of the story – which is largely based in a school setting both similar to our own and even more dangerous than the creature-filled landscapes both inside and out of Hogwarts – puts the characters through “tests” or trials in an almost serial-esque way. Chapter by chapter, the story twists and turns in different ways as the main character, Cia, explores her world and takes each test. Really, the closest I have ever felt while reading (as far as story style) was while I was reading Harry Potter…

But this is Harry Potter toward the end of the series, kids. The body count is high, and the odds are not in the student’s favor. Humanity and morality is a big focus of the plot, and the characters don’t always do what we would consider the “right” thing. In a world where competition is the name of the game and failing is the difference between life or death, we see what different people might do when “put to the test”.

I highly respect Cia as a character. She comes from a small town where respect and teamwork is instilled in all children. This shows in how she tackles each test. While, at times, she seems to be the only truly intelligent and most “humane” person in her school of supposed intellects, we really only see a small sect of a very large community. INDEPENDENT STUDY also shows us that Cia isn’t the only one around who is questioning the processes that the University imposes.

While the first novel may have been a more fast-paced thriller, we received very few answers about the goings-on in Cia’s “intellect reigns” society. But in INDEPENDENT STUDY we get to see much more about the politics of her world as well as more of the suspense that made The Testing so good. While the world-building may slow down the plot a bit, INDEPENDENT STUDY gives us a much larger picture of the what’s and how’s of the world itself. I really do love good political drama. Plus, we get to explore the streets of Tosu City and the lands surrounding the area. So much has been hidden from the reader up until now, and even more questions arise because of what we discover.

I am so impatient to see where Joelle takes her story in book 3, GRADUATION DAY.

Luckily, we won’t have too long to wait to find out.
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VINE VOICEon December 17, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )Verified Purchase
Cia made it through the Testing, but that doesn't mean her life is easy. In Independent Study, Joelle Charbonneau takes Cia's accomplishments to the next level: her studies.

After the Testing, the people who passed had their memories wiped. The people who didn't... disappeared. But Cia managed to hold onto her memories through the recording device she has hidden. Her memories were wiped, but from the recordings and the flashes of memories that weren't erased, she knows the government is doing dangerous things with the testing. Now, a University student, she must go through initiation. Just when she thought she had survived the worst ordeal of her life, she is forced to join forces with people she doesn't know and doesn't trust and go on an expedition for her initiation. Whenever the government gives them a test, it is clear they aren't afraid to risk their lives as well.

Finally, Cia is given her course load and an Independent Study location. What she doesn't expect is to be swamped with nine class when everyone else has six, given the hardest independent study, and most importantly, picked by the Government as its only intern. There are people out there who want to see Cia fail because they fear the bravery and will to protect people she harbors. To them, anyone willing to stand up to the establishment, even if in the smallest of ways, such as being able to figure out their tricks too easily, is a threat. And there is nothing more dangerous than being on the threat list of the government. But Cia has bigger things to worry about. With a rebel army amassing and Cia caught in the middle, she doesn't know who she can trust. In order to survive, however, she is going to have to learn to trust someone...

I thought this was a really interesting next step in this series, but I also found the beginning of the story with the initiation to be a lot more exciting than the parts after the initiation. The initiation was very similar to the actual Testing in the first book. They had a small quest with different deadly obstacles and such a desperation to pass that students would do anything to be first- even hurt each other. After that was over, it became more of a psychological thriller. Cia spent a lot of her time pondering the thought processes of the government, ways they were trying to trick her, and how to counter their moves. She also spent a lot of time skulking about campus trying to get information. I found it a little unrealistic that these crazy masterminds would be having these serious conversations full of important details in places where a girl in a hallway could hear them, but oh well! It was interesting!

This is a good series for anyone who likes dystopias and corrupt government stories. Again, I am glad to see a strong female lead who actually wants to do something to stop a corrupt government, not a reluctant hero who just wanted to be left alone. I like a hero who actually fights for what she believes in. There is some obvious brutality and violence in this story, but this one less so than the first book. Still, it isn't a story for young middle readers. More made for young adults. Lucky for all of us Charbonneau is pumping these books out every 6 months! Next one is right around the corner!
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on February 1, 2015
Not the best. The first in the series was a page turner, I admit. I got pulled in pretty fast but this follow up is tedious and slow. Long descriptive paragraphs used to describe something that could have been done in one sentence. The same descriptions are thrown in over and over. This whole book seems like it could have been done in about 1/3 the length. Not sure if I'll continue on to the third book. Found myself skimming a lot of the second. Don't want to pay that much for the third and have it be like the second.
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on February 25, 2015
The first book in this series was amazing. I couldn't put it down. The perfect amount of dialogue and detail. This book seems rushed and there is way to many gaps in the story in between events. The dialogue is half a$$ed and the detail isn't there. I got about 3/4 the way through and got tired of trying to like it. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable, not a grind just to finish the book. It was a real let down since the first book was so amazing...
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on February 5, 2014
I only state that this book isnt as good as the first one because it really started to drag out and get boring in some chapters.
The writing is very good and the story line interesting but once again......could have been wrapped up in two books.
Im not sure Im willing to spend the money for the third book so maybe I'll just read reviews and find out how it ends.
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