This series reminds me of both The Hunger Games because the dystopian leaders pit the brightest and best young adults against each other with often fatal results, and Matched, because of the narrative style. The tone can be so dry and unemotional, so it took me a while to get caught up in the story. Once I had consumed a good chunk of the book, though, I had a hard time putting it down.
Cia has survived the Testing, and now she’s an entry level University student. Her studies are nothing like she anticipated. She remembers bits and pieces of the deadly Testing, even though the university officials wiped her mind of them. She knows that errors often result in death, and she is mindful of everything she does. Her performance in her classes is constantly evaluated, and if she gives the impression that she is stressed with the work or falling behind, she will be Redirected. When she discovers that Redirected is a fancy way of saying “killed,” she is determined to put an end to the deadly Testing and the corrupt officials running the university.
I think part of the reason that I enjoy the series is that Cia has to overcome so many impossible odds. Because of irregularities in her Test, the evil Dr Barnes is determined to make her fail. She is overloaded with classes and work, and her professors look on, just waiting for her to fall behind in her work. She can’t trust anyone, because everyone is trying to prove that they are more capable than their peers, so there is a lot of backstabbing among the students. She and others from the provinces face contempt from the other students because she’s not from Tosu City. Every success earns her more enemies and greater challenges to overcome. Through it all, she remains steady in her resolve to help those working to undermine the Testing officials and put the cruel Test to an end.
I thought that the beginning was a bit slow. I have read so many books that take place in a school setting that it takes something very special to engage my interest. It wasn’t until Cia was given her intern assignment that I was actively engaged in the story. Once she’s given that assignment, the politics and infighting between the leaders of the society kept me wondering why, why, why did they allow the Testing to occur. The people at the very top of the government must have known what was going on. Their own children were subjected to Dr Barnes doctrine. While they escaped having to participate in the Testing that Cia was forced to endure, they were still penalized for failure. Failing an assignment at the university means dying, and I can’t see the wealthy and powerful leaders of Tosu City sitting back and letting their children be murdered.
While some of the politics didn’t make much sense, overall Independent Study was an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to Graduation Day, which hits shelves in June. One word of warning; If you didn’t like Hunger Games or Matched, odds are that there won’t be much here for you to like, either.
Review copy provided by my local library
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.