A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Cia and Tomas express their love for each other through soulful kisses and gentle hugging.
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A few instances of "damn" and "hell."
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.