Summary on Goodreads: 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.
Joelle Charbonneau's Independent Study evolved in the ways The Testing did not. There was more political intrigue, more character development, and much less focus on romance than on potential allies and killers. Overall, a much more satisfying read in the installment!
Cia Vale survived the Testing but now lives as a University student, and I loved getting to experience a different side to her government than simply murdering teenagers for fun. Reviews for this series center on "fans of the Hunger Games will devour this series!" Had HG actually built more into the power struggle rather than spend two books slaughtering, then it might have been as great as this series is becoming. We saw the physical skills of Cia; now we catch a glimpse of her mentality following the tragedy and how she will use it to her advantage.
One thing I loved was that Cia was open to finding new allies and friends. I admit, I have a crush on Michal, but Ian and Enzo are great partners for Cia's cause! Each want to push her to try something, to step into danger if it means discovering what she is capable of. Of course, there are Brick-lookalikes here too, but that simply adds to the insanity of the Testing.
Unfortunately, Cia is too sweet, and Tomas remains a large part of her life. I don't like Will, but I'm not on Tomas' side either. I was hoping she would cut them loose at some point, but Cia reverts back to her roots as someone who will not abandon, but I get the feeling that these trust issues will cause much more harm than good in the third book if she doesn't get her act together.
The ending was a cliffhanger, but fortunately the third book is out and I will start it within hours! Independent Study strengthened the parts of the first book I felt were weak (Cia's character, the vagueness of the cause, the secrets of the rebellion and the government) and brought to life the great parts of The Testing (the friendships, Cia's cling to family, Michal's stunning pep talks). Overall, this is a series I recommend any fan of action-based dystopian read because it's half action, half politics, a great mix of adult and YA dystopian.
Rating: 5 / 5 stars