Friday, January 10, 2014

Me on Independent Study

Title: Independent Study
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Seventeen-year-old Cia Vale survived The Testing, as has Tomas, the boy she loves, and they have both gained admission to the University. She has a promising future as a leader of the United Commonwealth and no memory of her bloody testing experience, thanks to a government-sanctioned memory wipe. Cia should be happy but is plagued by doubts about the past and future. Determined to find the truth, she embarks on a path of study forbidden by the government delving into the Commonwealth's darkest secrets. What she finds is the brutal reality lurking behind the friendly faces of her classmates and the unbearable realization that leaders chosen to protect us can be our greatest enemy.

Independent Study is a continuing struggle, struggle for survival, for knowledge, for truth. Cia survived the Testing but has no idea what it entailed, apart from a secret and a flash of a forgotten memory. She has a promising future as a leader, but she is plagued by doubt. There are some dark secrets circling the University and the capital, and it's up to her to find the truth.

Cia, like in the first book, is intelligent and strong mentally, but her compassion makes her a liability. It fuels her beliefs, her thoughts, her actions, and puts a rather large target on her back. An underdog, yes, but one for the other students to keep an eye on. One to suspect, one to push out of the way. One to tower over. But she knows that she has to fight back, to keep on pushing through her day even when it's packed full of instruction and subtle sabotage.

School is where you learn. Learn how the world works, how to improve the world, how to understand people. It's where you acquire skills, are tested on those skills, trust in those skills, and graduate with a better understanding of the world around you. But what if the truth is kept hidden from you? What if the instructors say one thing but mean another? What if there is no trust to speak of? What are you supposed to learn then?

Like with The Testing, I couldn't escape the similarities to The Hunger Games. The emphasis is on learning, on strategy, on observation, on truth and answers, not killing. But it's still one girl trying to survive, one girl being relied on, one girl being threatened by those in charge because they see her as a future leader that could turn everything around. One girl who might very well have to sacrifice everything in order to reveal the truth to the rest of society.

This is a continuation of Cia's life, nothing has changed from the first book. This is about what it takes to be a future leader of a futuristic society, where wrong answers are paid for with your life. The tension is high, the stakes are high, but again I felt something was missing. Perhaps this feeling has less to do with something missing and more to do with the similarities I mentioned before.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through Edelweiss.)

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