Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2



Sci-fi sequel spends too much time in familiar territory.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Independent Study provides a less realistic picture of wilderness-survival techniques than The Testing. The book does provide an opportunity to discuss how governments work and how their goals do not always match those of their citizens.

Positive messages

Independent Study emphasizes the importance of fair play and personal values, even in the face of life-or-death struggles. Cia has opportunities to get ahead by letting someone else be hurt, but she always struggles to find a way to protect herself without descending to the worst forms of behavior.

Positive role models

Protagonist Cia Vale is presented as smart, brave, resourceful, and trustworthy. She's not perfect, but she wants to succeed and make a better life for herself. She's offered many chances to succeed at the expense of others, but she usually finds a way to progress while playing fair with her fellow contestants.


The violence in Independent Study is far less intense than in the first volume and concentrated primarily at the story's climax. A character is spirited away and seems to be dead. Cia is nearly asphyxiated in an airless trunk. A supporting character takes a fatal fall into a pit. Cia stabs an attacker to death.


 Cia and Tomas express their love for each other through soulful kisses and gentle hugging.  


A few instances of "damn" and "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Independent Study is a dystopian science-fiction adventure in the mold of The Hunger Games. It continues the story begun in The Testing, in which high-achieving students are pitted against one another in an exam that has life-or-death consequences. The violence is less intense in this installment and mostly concentrated at the book's climax. The language is tame, with only a few instances of "hell" and "damn." There's little sexual content, with Cia and Thomas expressing their love for each other through gentle hugs and soulful kisses.

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What's the story?

INDEPENDENT STUDY picks up where The Testing left off, with Cia about to begin her education at the Commonwealth's prestigious University. Her memories have been wiped away, but she still has her brother's contraband Transit Communicator that contains clues about her predicament. But Cia can't stop the nightmares that plague her. With the assistance of undercover members of the rebel forces, she learns more about what's expected of her and what happens to those students who fail to meet the expectations of their teachers. The question remains: Will her hard-won knowledge be enough to save her life?

Is it any good?


Independent Study falls into the narrative trap that captures many second volumes in a trilogy. The novelty of the first installment has worn off, and the author isn't ready yet to choreograph the rousing conclusion. So Book 2 sometimes feels as if the plot is merely marking time. With Cia having had her memory wiped at the end of The Testing, there's a lot of catch-up that simply isn't as interesting the second time around. Author Joelle Charbonneau also allows Cia to find out too much crucial information by wandering around in the dark and conveniently overhearing conversations. There are a couple of intriguing reversals at the end of Independent Study that hint at a satisfying finale to come, but readers are going to need a lot of patience before they get to them.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dystopian novels and why they're so popular. How does Independent Study compare with other dystopian novels you've read?

  • What makes a good leader? Someone who can get the job done, no matter what obstacles he or she may face? Or someone who's more empathetic and tries to meet the needs of her or his teammates?

  • Do you think academic institutions ever put too much pressure on students? What are some healthy ways of dealing with such stress?

Book details

Author:Joelle Charbonneau
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Great girl role models, High school
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:January 28, 2014
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Kid, 12 years old July 14, 2014

Good read

Independent study is a suspenseful story that makes you never want to stop reading. It's a great sequel to the previous book, "The Testing." Once Cia is accepted into the university, she realizes that it is different from what she expected. Cia and Tomas decide they need to put a stop to the testing once and for all. This is less violent than the first book of the series "The Testing" although it does have some incidences of violence.
Written byAnonymous August 23, 2014

Independent Study, Book 2 Review

Like the first book this one is equally amazing. Violence- Not as much violence as the first book. During the Induction Damone, who cannot control his emotions, tries to hit Cia with a hammer. A minor character is accidentally pushed off a cliff. Some shooting and shoving. Sex- Cia and Tomas are now a couple. They kiss and hug a few times. Language- He** and da** are used a few times Consumerism- None. Drinking- None that I could remember.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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