Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Rating: 3/5 stars
This book is the second book in the Testing Series. The book is another spin on a dystopian and corrupt society after a large scale civil war. The book is about Cia who survived the testing in the first book. She was able to keep many of her memories alive, by recording them and keeping the recorder hidden, where she slowly regained her memory after having it wiped. The main conflict takes place around Tosu City, which was Witchita, Kansas, and the outlying land around it. The outlying regions around it are very important because they are a constant reminder of the “7 Stages of War”. These revitalized areas are were many challenges for the students take place, because of the many chemical mutant animals.
The protagonist of the story is Malenica Vale, or Cia. She has survived the testing experience, watching friends kill friends and seeing people betray to get ahead. Though she does not remember who betrayed who, so she is always told to never trust anyone. Though she has trouble facing the reality of the university, that failure, is punishable by death. Making it so intense that students will kill to get ahead. The conflict Cia faces is the fact that her school is killing people almost for sport, and not just to test, and even that she believes is wrong. Cia believes she must stop the University of the United Commonwealth by stopping Dr. Barnes. (E). Dr. Barnes is the head of the university and is responsible for the countless deaths, and has followers all through the Government, slowly corrupting it so he can take control. Dr. Barnes controls Cia’s whole life and schooling by being able to track her, watch her, make her take classes, test her whenever, and even if he feels like it kill her for failing. He controls all matters of life and he can destroy any political boundary that comes into play with his mass following.
The main plot of the story consists of Cia, learning about the rebellion from Michael. Michael was her guide and a university official who was working with Symon, a rebellion leader. Cia decides to join and does what Michael says of learning faces and who can be an asset. Cia slowly starts to realize what “redirection” means after she watches her friend Obadiah get carried out on a stretcher and body bag after he fails a test. She is soon faced with another test of the sorts, this time with teams where she is almost betrayed by Damone, who tries to trap her in a steel box and suffocate her. Only do her friends save her, when she realizes that the abandoned air force base wasn't so abandoned. Soon into her studies she finds out that she will be interning for the president. The president soon discloses to Cia that a vote will be taking place to get Dr. Barnes out of power. Though she also learns that the president is part of the rebellion, but the president is ready for a war, not a peaceful attack. Soon after this discovery, Dr. Barnes sends Damone to go kill Cia, and stop her. Where the reverse happens, having Damone be thrown into a pit. After which she returns to the base to find her brother sitting there and waiting for her, though she thought he was trapped in 5 Lakes Colony. When she returns with evidence for Symon and Michael, to give to the president to help free everyone from what has become of Dr. Barnes. She finds that Symon has shot Michael and destroyed the evidence. She learns that Symon was working with Dr. Barnes all along and that they only reason the rebellion existed was to rat out people who didn’t believe in the system.
The theme of Independent Study is freedom of choice. The author constantly states over and over how the characters want to make their own decision and do whatever they want to do and choose where they live. Though they can't make those choices because Dr. Barnes dictates it all and decides everything, even who lives and who dies. They constantly are forced into jobs, and internships, into the University without choice at all, and that is why the theme is freedom of choice. (H) I really enjoyed all the twists and turns in the book, and I really thought it was a great plot point making Cia so sophisticated and being able to figure out small clues. I enjoyed that when Cia noticed something like fresh branches, it wasn’t just branches, the author gave you clues as to what that could mean and let you and Cia, really piece together the reality of the story. What I did not like about the book, was how the author constantly said something doesn't exist, like there can't be unsanctioned colonies, and then next thing you know there is an five unsanctioned colonies on the border of Tosu City. There were five illegal colony right under the capitals city’s nose, that makes no sense. I also disliked that the author never actually stated what the “7 Stages of War” was, and what caused it. I would give this book a 3 out of 5 stars, while it does have good twists, there are some things the author just doesn't have an explanation for other than poor planning. I think anyone who enjoys books such as The Hunger Games, Legend, or Divergent would enjoy this book.
Contributed by Miles B, 8th grader