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4.3 1
Young Adult Fiction 58
Solid Follow-Up to 'The Testing'
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Having just recently received my bachelor’s degree, university classes and all they entail are fresh on my mind. After reading Joelle Charbonneau’s “Independent Study,” I am thanking my lucky stars that higher education is nothing like it is in Charbonneau’s dystopian America.

“Independent Study” is Charbonneau’s follow-up to “The Testing.” In this sequel, Malencia “Cia” Vale begins her first year as a University student. Despite having her memory wiped after the horrific events of the Testing that got her into the school, Cia has a handy dandy recorder she hid away to fill herself in on the morbid challenges and their inevitable consequences that the University administrators forced Cia and her fellow higher ed hopefuls to endure. Turns out, Cia’s first year at school is just as dangerous as the admissions process that got her there.

I was so pleased that Charbonneau answered all of the questions I had at the end of “The Testing.” She doesn’t keep us hanging until the summer of next year when the final book of the trilogy comes out to know just why the Testing and its administrators have to be so brutal. Instead, she delivers their morbid justification, satiating that need to know what in the heck is going on with this murderous education system. Then, through a serious of new developments, fresh questions arise to be resolved in the finale.

What I liked about “Independent Study” is it almost felt like a diary of Cia’s first year at the University. The first half of the book has just as many life-threatening challenges as “The Testing,” and then Cia gets a little more pensive as to how she is going to move forward with her life. Cia is making constant observations as to the state of her nation and how she hopes to improve it. While this may feel a little slower than the action of “The Testing,” I think “Independent Study” offers just as many world building moments as the first book, leaving me solidly wanting to discover how Cia’s life will pan out in the final book of the trilogy.
Good Points
Answers all the questions from 'The Testing.'
Further develops the world of the United Commonwealth.
A surprise twist that leaves you ready for the finale.
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