Independent Study (The Testing, #2) by Joelle Charbonneau

17165932Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers

This is not the fantastic sequel to a fantastic book. This is like waking up next to the guy you met the night before (and who then seemed sexy and attractive) after the alcohol glamour is wearing of, monster headaches cloud your mind and you see that he looks nothing like Brad Pitt, not even remotely. It’s like waking up, going to the bathroom and seeing a female doppelgänger of Heath Ledger ‘The Joker’ in the mirror instead of your usual face, mascara and lipstick inches away from where they were supposed to stay according to the ads and the money you spent on them and an enormous new pimple on your forehead just to make it perfect.

Independent Study is the same disappointment Laura Bickle’s The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) felt like: a 4/5-star-wow-that-was-awesome first installment followed by a 1-star-what-the-fuck-just-happened sequel.

One of the disturber is the subliminal slut shaming
There is one woman only, the President of the United Commonwealth, that isn’t portrayed negatively, but she sports no female attributes either

The president stands seven inches taller than I. Her face is long and angular. Not what most would call beautiful. But the almond-shaped brown eyes and strong jaw would draw attention anywhere … there is nothing maternal about President Collindar’s appearance or voice. Both carry a shimmer of absolute authority.

All other female characters in this story are outright mean, cold, conniving, giggling and simply all of them can’t be trusted. Even the one that comes as close as possible to be a friend like Stacia who spends a lot of time with Cia, can’t be trusted because of that cold smile.

Stacia: “Only a handful of people have the ability to shape their lives and the lives of those around them. To become one of those people, I have to prove I can do whatever is necessary to succeed.” She laughs. “So I will.”
Her laugh makes me flinch. It’s cold and practical. Hard.
Determined. Stacia is smart, but I’ve often wondered if it’s these other traits that helped her survive The Testing. 

Himanbi Biseck, a dark-skinned girl, is described having a bright smile, “but something about the narrowing of her eyes reminds me of cat stalking a field mouse”. Kit, one of the other Testing candidates, tosses her waist-length hair and smiles, amused and smug. Professor Holt, Cia’s adversary, has attributes of a bloody snake, with her hair slicked off her face and the scarlet-painted lips curling or curved into a smile. Why does Cia need to feel superior or better why DOES she feel inferior to other females? Why does the author feel the necessity to single Cia out? I don’t know. But even if there was one other kind AND pretty female character it wouldn’t take away from Cia as our main character. Since when is it socially unacceptable to dress up and put on red lipstick or have waist-long hair?

The whole intention of this book is to set Cia up as Leader

If nothing happens to alter Symon’s plans, my brother, the rebels, and hundreds of selected Testing candidates will die. Dr. Barnes and his team will win.
I refuse to let that happen.
But the only way to stop it is to create a new rebellion. A rebellion free of Dr. Barnes’s control.
For that, I will have to step up and be the leader the University is teaching me to be.
Deep in my heart, I hear Michal’s voice whisper the words: “You’re smart, Cia. You’re strong. There are people like me on your side who know you can make it. Please, prove I’m right.” 

No other character in this book qualifies to lead: not the “helpless” president, or her boyfriend Tomas, not even the leader of the resistance Symon. Face-to-face with Cia’s awesomeness, her specialness, her outstanding superiority it’s a wonder water doesn’t immediately turn to wine. Please wait while I worship the ground she’s walking on. She is really that speshul. Self-doubt and thoughts of suicide – she can overcome it in 5 sentences. Our Cia can overcome fear and terror simply by dreaming to shatter ice walls. Hopeless situation? Haven’t you learned by now? There is no hopeless situation for Cia because there is always something her brother, her father or her teacher told her, some reclusive childhood memory she can relate to even in the middle of danger. She just closes her eyes and thinks. She is the child of Vicky the Viking and MacGyver.

And if not then there is still the BAG. I hated that fucking bag. She packs and repacks that bag at least a thousand times. If she goes out of campus for 2 hours she packs several loaves of bread, apples and pears and even a change of clothes.

She is that outstanding that the University gives her 9 classes whereas all other students have 5 or six. She is that extraordinary that even the goddamn President of the United Commonwealth wants her, and only her. It’s a wonder she doesn’t poop rainbows and shit sparkly diamonds. I would expect nothing less from her.

President Collindar speaks before I can wonder what the reference means. “I was intrigued when we met during your Induction. Of all the students who came into the Debate Chamber, you were the only one who recited the request without error and the only female who made the attempt for her team. Taking that kind of risk in public is often more difficult for women than men. (…) But a girl like you, Malencia, a girl who is willing to risk embarrassment and possible failure by taking control of the Debate Chamber floor will be more likely to tell me what I need to know.” 

Hold on a minute while I gag. 
Everybody needs her ergo nobody is save from her. She is THE HERO and saves the day every fucking time. Cia is so great she doesn’t need help. She even persuades Tomas, her boyfriend, with a kiss (“I put all my love in the kiss and I know he will do as I ask”) to leave her in order to do the dangerous stuff alone, because “she is smaller and faster and will be safer on her own.”

The rest of the book made no sense
It would have been pretty interesting to see Cia and Tomas trying to understand the machinations behind The Testing, their first contact to the resistance and also finding like-minded students. But Tomas is for the most part not present, we are being told not shown about the resistance, the conspiracies and the political background. Like-minded students? Maybe there are some, but “YOU CAN’T TRUST THEM” and they are sure as death not female.

I disliked this book so much.


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