Thursday, January 2, 2014

Independent Study (The Testing #2) by Joelle Charbonneau

First, thanks to HMH Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss for allowing me to read this e-galley.  Especially if they read my not so stellar review of the first book HERE.  Now the first book was good, it was just so similar to The Hunger Games that I had trouble reading it.  But I knew it was a pretty good story idea, and did have some unique bits, and so I did want to read on and see if the 2nd book could salvage the story for me.  And I have to say that it did.
In the first book, students from the colonies surrounding the main city of the new civilization were selected to come in and be tested.  The different tests checked their intelligence, problem solving skills, etc.  And a final test for those that made it that far included a type of Hunger Games type of situation.  Only those competing weren't told to kill, but some did in order to increase their chances of passing the test first.  And at the end of the testing, those left, all had their memories erased.  The main character Cia did have her memories erased, but she had left herself a recording of things that she needed to remember and people not to trust.  Her boyfriend, Tomas, seems to maybe remember more, and when Cia has a memory of him taking a pill that will help him keep his memories, she realizes that he does remember.  This book starts off with one more test, one where they decide which career path the students will be proceeding on.  Cia really wants to work with mechanical things, what has always been her strength. But somehow she gets selected for the government/leadership path.  Tomas gets his first choice, biomechanical engineering, where Cia thought she would be as well.  But Cia learns from one of the people who helped her in the first book that she must do whatever is necessary to succeed.  And she realizes just how true this is when she sees one of the students get redirected, and decides to follow him to see what that really means. She learns that it means he dies.  He isn't sent out to the colonies or back home as originally thought or intimated by those in charge.  And soon Cia learns she is being kept under watch, because many of the things she has done to pass the tests have put a red flag up to those in charge.  They assume she has help, even though the things that have caught their attention are only things that anyone who stopped and thought before acting would figure out.  And she wants to help end the Testing the way it is, so that people die.  She finds out from Michal that if she can get an internship in a good place, she might be able to get important information to pass on to the rebels to help with the cause.  But for all of this she must look like she is doing as she should.  She gets the highest number of classes, 9, and the highest internship, working with the president of the Commonwealth. She ends up with allies in other unlikely places.  Her government mentor, Ian, seems to want to help for some reason.  And one or two of the students that are from the city, that didn't go through the Testing in the last book turn out to be helpful as well.
We're left with a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, and I am definitely ready to read on and see what happens next.  Because while she ends up with some new allies, she also finds people that were thought to be on her side, may not really be.
Once again, I will be able to recommend to fans of The Hunger Games, only now I can do it without the trepidation of such an identical story, really it is getting much more original as it goes.