Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Sci-fi sequel spends too much time in familiar territory.

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age 11+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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

Language

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

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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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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... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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?

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