Book Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Posted April 28, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 7 Comments

Independent Study

 by Joelle Charbonneau

 Independent Study

Original Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Length: 310 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Source: Won
Series: #2 in The Testing trilogy
Format Read In: Advanced Reader’s Copy
View from the Traffic Light:


the story morning glory

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.


 While I thought The Testing was not without flaws(and the actual closet to The Hunger Games from Dystopia books I have read), I enjoyed it immensely, but I’m quite disappointed with Independent Study. It was mostly boring, which contributed to my lack of enjoyment, but by far the biggest flaw I found with Independent Study was the protagonist, Cia Vale.

Cia is the best and brightest girl you could ask for. She is flawless. She has advanced knowledge of things you would never even consider. She knows when to give up. Her intuition guides her and her intuition is never, ever wrong. She is a special snowflake of the highest level. She is perfect and almost personality-less. She is a Mary-Sou. In fact, I would say Cia is the most Mary-Su character I have ever read in a published book. Maybe there were some that could give her a run for her money in my fanfiction-reading days, but for an actual, published work? Cia’s the best at that too.

She leads a team brilliantly. Everyone else who has made it to the university is selected to take five or six classes, maybe seven if they’re really bright. But not Cia. Oh, no, because Cia is THE brightest. The entire world hinges on her being able to fix everything. So she gets nine classes. She grapples a little emotionally, but as far as intelligence goes? No one else even comes close to her. She gets to intern with the leader of the country, and so on and so on. Cia’s perfection was infuriating. I remember this being a bit of a problem in The Testing, but I certainly don’t remember it being to this extent(or I never would have finished).

Cia, as narrator, also loves to tell us everything about everything. There would be paragraphs of Cia explaining non-relevant information, which made the beginning of Independent Study quite slow. It finally picked up in the middle, but it never got terribly exciting. The most exciting parts were reminiscent of the first book. The university students have to complete a challenge that’s quite similar to what they did in The Testing. Now, this can be okay if done right(see Catching Fire with its games and new arena), but it’s just sort of. . . well, boring in Independent Study. It feels to similar to the first book.

While there’s a new plot development in Independent Study, I don’t feel it was strong enough to carry this book. The idea of rebellion, which we learn about towards the beginning of the story, is the only strength of the book, and it’s just not enough(though it’s probably enough to make me read the final book just to see how it ends, so, you know, it must work on some small level). It’s definitely a perk in the book’s favor. I just wish there were more of those perks.


Cia is currently one of my least favorite main characters due to her overwhelming PERFECTION. Seriously, she never does a single thing wrong in this book. . . and she doesn’t really grow from it either. There’s no sense of danger for her because all she does is get things right. Other elements of the plot were too similar to the first book. While there were gems here and there in Independent Study, for the most part I found this second book severely lacking.




2 Stars


7 responses to “Book Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

  1. This kind of has a spy-conspiracy vibe to it and all I keep thinking when I see the MC’s name is CIA. Like THE C.I.A.

    As for the perfection thing, yeah, not good. I’m not at all saying that teenagers can’t be great at things, but no one is perfect. No one is great at everything. It’s not fun to read stories where the MC is the bestest ever at everything and they didn’t have to work hard and they don’t make mistakes, because those people are basically robots! I want to read about people, making mistakes, figuring out why their choices were wrong. These boringly perfect MCs are just not my thing.

    • Stormy

      YES I think that too every time I see the name Cia!
      Her perfection was so annoying. Like, I hardly ever say a character is a Mary-Sue but I cannot remember a SINGLE mistake or thing she did wrong in this book. It was grating.

  2. I didn’t think very highly of The Testing so I was wondering if I would feel any better about Independent Study. I found the writing too simple and the characters two-dimensional. It’s too bad it seems to be more of the same in the second book.

    • Stormy

      I thought it was a definite decrease in quality. I’ll probably read the third book JUST to see how it ends, but I’m not in any hurry.

  3. Oh NOOO! I was actually pleasantly surprised with this book but maybe because I was EXPECTING it not to go well? I was irritated with how similar I felt The Testing was to THG so I was glad this took a step in a different direction than Catching Fire (I didn’t think it would but you never know). I do agree that Cia wasn’t believable to be THAT intelligent though. It didn’t bother me as much but it did seem silly and I liked it enough to finish out the series.

    • Stormy

      I think expectations could make a difference. And The Testing WAS super similar to THG, so there was definitely more original. Cia just grated on my nerves so much with her intelligence/perfection. Like, I remember her being one of the smartest in the first book, but here it was so overdone I just kept rolling my eyes.

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