Sunday, December 01, 2013
Independent Study picks up where The Testing left off; Cia has lived through The Testing (always capitalized!) and is ready to embark on her University studies after taking a placement test. She doesn't precisely remember the trauma she experienced while completing The Testing, but the voice memo she saved on her Transmitter tells her things she knows must be true. In Cia's careful, measured world, it is beyond believable that The Testing is allowed to exist, but the knowledge that her boyfriend Tomas and her mentor Michal know what she knows helps her decide not to leave Tosu City...but only if she can become part of the rebellion team working to overthrow Dr. Barnes and his Testing. Things go from bad to worse for Cia; she attempts to discover information while being constantly watched and overloaded with studies so that she will fail, all without Tomas, who is placed elsewhere. Lots of conspiracy and duplicity ensue, with Cia thinking and overthinking and thinking some more, figuring things out logically yet always trying to do the right thing.
Independent Study could honestly be called The Testing Part II, as there is still a good deal of problems to be worked through and even more tests to pass. While the tests are just as mentally and physically exhausting, it does feel to some degree as though it's just more of the same. Fortunately, Cia has to learn to rely more on herself throughout this one; she learns to trust her instincts and act accordingly. There are horrible situations made worse by horrible people and isolation from those she loves, and a couple of twists near the end that are great set-ups for the final book.
While I enjoyed Independent Study almost as much as The Testing, I did grow weary of Cia's stilted way of speaking and her overly moralistic views that she imposes on herself and others. I understand that this is all part of the situation in which Cia finds herself, and yet it makes her seem stand-offish and a tiny bit arrogant at times. But the story, even with its similarities to the first book, is still interesting and action-filled. If I'm a tiny bit let down with this entry, it would have to do with Cia's cardboard personality rather than the general storyline itself. I would actually give this novel 3 stars but am rounding it up because I sense that Cia's going to continue to grow as she finds herself drawn further into the takedown of The Testing. Still an enjoyable, intriguing read overall.