INDEPENDENT STUDY by Joelle Charbonneau

indystudyINDEPENDENT STUDY (Book 2 in THE TESTING series)

Joelle Charbonneau

1/7/14

HMH Books

 

Cia has survived the Testing, the ordeal of a lifetime to see if youths are worthy of the University.  At the end of it all, several children are dead and those moving ahead have their minds wiped.  However, Cia leaves herself a recording of the events, and while she can’t personally remember much, the recording leaves no doubt that everything from here on out is a life or death struggle.

INDEPENDENT STUDY opens with Cia beginning her time as a freshman.  However, this isn’t a young person struggling to fit in while away from home.  Cia must find a way to survive against a system that appears to be stacked against her.  Designated as a candidate for Governmental studies, she is given a crushing work load, a noble but intense internship, and the knowledge that the penalty for failure may well be her life.

Cia may well be my all-time favorite YA heroine.  There are no love triangles, no clics she’s trying to get in with, no moping or lamenting her situation. She is brilliant, brave, strong, and basically a force of nature when she’s put in harm’s way.  She is the master of her own fate with a mind that belongs solely to her.  She loves her family and even has a love interest in school.  But where that would be a driving force for most female main characters in YA novels lately, for Cia it is just a part of a larger life that she is living and fighting for.

This book was simply stunning and a perfect start to 2014.  Charbonneau has the rare gift to keep readers of any age enthralled from cover to cover.  INDEPENDENT STUDY raises the bar on young adult fiction with perfect pacing, nerve-wrenching tension that ratchets higher page after page, and action scenes so perfect they’d put an adrenaline junkie out for the count.  A brilliant plot filled with betrayals, mixed motivations, and the most amazing main character in years, this book will keep you guessing, gasping, grasping, and gaping as each layer unfolds.  Just when you think you have your feet on the ground, Charbonneau yanks the rug out from under you again and I have never had so much fun falling!

-Bryan VanMeter