Book review: 'Independent Study' isn't as boring as it sounds

By Nathan Sorensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 25 2014 1:30 p.m. MST

"INDEPENDENT STUDY: The Testing, Book 2," by Joelle Charbonneau, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, 310 pages (ages 14 and up)

For some students, failing a test means extra chores, revoked driving privileges or perhaps even an old-fashioned spanking.

But for Malencia Vale, failing a test at her university could very well mean her death.

"Independent Study" by Joelle Charbonneau continues the story of young Cia, an aspiring young student just starting her first year at the university in Tosu City (formerly known as Wichita, Kansas). She passed the Testing with flying colors, despite having no memory of its subject matter.

But as her classes and initiation begin, she starts having nightmares that feel all too real and doubts about a school that seems all too perfect. As Cia digs deeper into the mystery that clouds her teachers' and the older students' methods, she stumbles into secrets that force her to choose a side and battle for what she believes in.

"Independent Study" is a great novel in a trilogy. The stakes continue to climb as Cia discovers not only more about her school, her new friends and young love, but also much more about herself.

With this dystopian fantasy, it's easy to be clamoring to know what becomes of Cia and Tomas, of the city of Tosu and the students at the university. In proper fiction fashion, as Cia uncovers one mystery, three more plop into its place — and, of course, the truth is as slippery as a memory wiped clean by Testing officials.

All the fans of post-apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy out there should take a good look at this series. It's as action-packed as Divergent and as fast-paced as The Hunger Games, with a main character that's almost as intriguing as that of either of those books. The Testing series is probably only a few plot twists short of a box-office deal.

The third book, "Graduation Day," is scheduled to be released this summer.

The novel contains some violence and mild language.

Email: nsorensen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: sorensenate

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