In the context of bad sequels, this is Batman and Robin kind of terrible. How on earth did a series go so wrong from one book to the next?
My opinion of this series has changed so much in this book that I feel like I should go back to the first book to see if I had made a monumental error in rating it so highly. Did I miss something outrageously bad in the first book? Was I so blinded? How does a series go from a 5 in one book to a 2 in the sequel?
The Summary: This is the sequel to The Testing, in which a group of carefully selected students compete in a Hunger Games type of survival competition to determine who will win entrance to the prestigious University in Tosu City.
Cia is our main character, she is a winner, one of a handful who survived the rigorous, dangerous Testing. Her memories of The Testing has been erased, the process of the Testing is so secretive that nobody is allowed to remember what has happened.
Only Cia does. Through a concealed device, Cia has recorded what happened during the Testing, she remembers the betrayals, the murders, the competition. She knows that her friends, smiling at her in the hallways of the University are willing to be as cutthroat as possible to win placement to the University. One of them is her current boyfriend, Tomas.
A year has passed, and Cia is now in the University, she has been selected to enter a highly prestigious leadership program. As is the case with any competitive educational programs, the competition is brutal. To top it off, Cia is now aware of an underground rebellion taking place against the Testing program. She is unwittingly dragged into the rebellion.
The Plot: What plot? I'm sorry, was there a secret rebellion plot? The book serves one purpose, and one purpose only: to show how completely fucking brilliant and perfect and amazing Cia is in every conceivable way.
LET'S KILL OUR BEST AND BRIGHTEST: I'm just fucking sick of dystopians that seem to think "IT'S THE FUTURE. OUR NATION HAS COLLAPSED! LET'S CHOOSE THE VERY BEST OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND GRADUALLY KILL THEM OFF. MAY THE BEST ONE WIN!" makes perfect fucking sense.
What. The. Fuck? Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK? The United States is gone. There have been stages of war. Nuclear war, devastation of natural resources, collapse of the government. This has resulted in mutants, a general lack of resources and agriculture. There are now small, scattered colonies throughout the United States, including Cia's colony, which has 1023 citizens.
1023 citizens. Sure. Let's just KILL OFF SEVERAL OF THE BEST YOUNG PEOPLE. Right.
The Testing procedure, I understand. Ok, survival of the best and the brightest. Up to a certain extent, it's understandable. After the Testing...killing off MORE people who get bad grades? No. That doesn't make any fucking sense.
His head lolls back. His braids drag on the ground. I wait for Obidiah to sit up. He doesn’t. I look for the rise and fall of his chest, but there is nothing.
He is gone. Redirected. Dead. If I am not careful, I will be too.
There are NOT a whole lot of fucking people left in the United Commonwealth. It makes NO fucking sense to kill off the youngest, the most intelligent, the ones with the most to contribute to society. This book tries to sell the fact that it's hard to govern a nation that's too large.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Look at fucking China, India, the current United States. Granted, not the best of governments, but people still live, people still manage to survive, most can still make a living. No goverment is perfect, no nation is perfect, no matter how large, how small.
And you expect us to believe that it's ok to kill off the best young people in a nation of, perhaps, several hundred thousand, BECAUSE IT'S HARD TO GOVERN A LARGE COUNTRY?
Especially when you can just erase their memory? No. Fuck no. I'm not a fucking idiot.
Now I Ain't Sayin' She's a Mary Sue...: But Cia is so fucking bloody perfect. Shit would turn into flowers if you flung it at her head.
"You figured out the purpose of the final test faster than anyone expected. Professor Holt and Dr. Barnes were disturbed by how quickly you recognized the insolvability of the task. Dr. Barnes said The Testing demonstrated that one of your greatest strengths is your willingness to trust your intuition."
Cia is a genius, awe-inspiringly flawless in every conceivable way. Her intelligence is legendary. The students at the University take pre-emptive tests to see how many classes they can handle. The more classes, the better, the more intelligent the student. Everyone has but a few classes. Cia has nine.
"Your scores were quite impressive.” She takes a sheet of gray recycled paper off the table next to her. “Because of your high examination marks, your class list is more challenging than the others."
During our Early Studies semester, every student was assigned five courses. This schedule has me attending nine.
She not only has nine classes, she excels at every single one.
Cia passes every single challenge. She remembers ancient governing procedures whose incredibly obscure rules allow her to pass a test that nobody else can.
At the end of that lesson, my teacher mentioned an antiquated law that said any citizen may request a hearing on the Debate Chamber floor.
Due to that tremendously obscure law that NOBODY ELSE BUT CIA KNOWS, she is able to singlehandedly pass that challenge.
Fails at Failing: Even her failures are spectacular...which is to say, when Cia chooses to fail, it is the right thing to do in that circumstance, because she was MEANT to fail. Cia is so good at everything, she knows when failure will equate winning.
“We’re not going to beat it.” I nod at the cluster of observers across the way. “They don’t expect us to, so there’s no point in giving them the satisfaction of seeing us try and come up short.”
And of course, she's right! Failing is the right way to do things because Cia just so fucking magical and perfect. She is praised for knowing when to fail.
“This task was designed to be insurmountable.” Professor Holt takes the markers and gives me a small smile. “Ian was told to engage the bridge when we deduced that Cia had figured out that solution.”
And then SHE DOES IT AGAIN. Like what the actual FUCK?
And I understand. This wasn’t a test I was supposed to pass. Just like the final task during the Induction, this was an assignment designed for failure. The president wants me to learn that just because something is created by people in power doesn’t mean it is to be trusted.
It's one thing to be perfect, it's another thing to be so fucking perfect that even your failures are designed to highlight how fucking awesome you are for fucking figuring every single little itty bitty detail out. Spare me.
Magical Leadership!: Cia is so bloody perfect that everyone wants her. She *wails* Nooooooooooooooo! when she's chosen to be a leader. Because of all the fucking BRILLIANT students at the university, nobody is better designed to lead than Cia, right?
Let me explain the University. It is like the fucking Harvard of the future, if Harvard requires both intelligence, physical ability, and skills, and its students are willing to literally murder one another for better grades, you get the drift.
Ok, maybe not. I've been told that it is pretty much murder to get a better grade than your peers at Harvard...but I digress.
My point is that all the students at the University are tremendously capable, are intellectually brilliant, are completely amazing learners, leader in every way. How else could they have passed the Testing? But out of all of these awe-inspiring, brilliant students, Cia is single-handedly selected to be the best, the brightest. She is hand-selected by the President of the United Commonwealth to be her intern.
"After discussing your Testing results and academic achievements with Dr. Barnes and Professor Holt, I asked that you be assigned to intern in my office." The president’s smile widens. “My office has never been included in the University internship program."
Just fucking awesome. The President has never had an intern before, and has never had interest in an intern before...until Cia.
Insidious Girl Hate: There is no slut shaming, but there is a very strong current of distrust and sly undertones of hate towards the other women in this book. The females in this book, the very brilliant, very capable females, I must mention, are all portrayed as stone-cold, emotionless bitches.
Her close friend, Stacia, is cold. Hard. Determined. Cia is much the same, but somehow, Stacia's determination is portrayed as BAD whereas we're supposed to sympathize with Cia.
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.
She sees competition in other girls, Cia always see something underlying in a common gesture of courtesy.
Himani’s smile is bright, but something about the narrowing of her eyes reminds me of a cat stalking a field mouse.
A girl is "sharp," even when compared to a friendly, smiling boy.
Rawson’s trio is completed by a sweet-faced boy named Enzo and a girl with sharp features called Juliet.
Cia seems to think so much better of the guys than she does her fellow female students. Boys are always described with so much more kindness than other females.
His face is thin and narrow. His smile warm and angelic. Trustworthy.
Boys remind her of her brothers, girls are conniving bitches.
In his fitted black pants, shiny black boots, and deep purple shirt, Ian is more than a little imposing. Until he grins. The sternness disappears, replaced by an exuberance that makes me think of my brother Win.
Red lips. Evil. Scary. The marks of an evil witch that is noted quite pointedly. Even a respected professor is not immune to thecharge.
Her hair is slicked off her face. Her scarlet-painted lips curl into an expression of geniality as she addresses those of us assembled here who are in her charge.
Dressed in deep crimson, Professor Holt stands near the fireplace. Lips that match the color of her jumpsuit are curved into a smile.
Other girls are giggly, pampered, spoiled. Why paint the University as the penultimate institute of education if you're going to put in dumb female character to be insidiously noted by Cia?Not even the President of the United Commonwealth, the most powerful woman in the country, is immune to being painted in a bad light. She is cold, unmaternal, inhuman in her iciness.
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. Almost all the United Commonwealth presidents have been female. It has been argued that women are less aggressive, more maternal, and thus more focused on the well-being of the country’s people. Less focused on politics or power. Perhaps this is true, but there is nothing maternal about President Collindar’s appearance or voice. Both carry a shimmer of absolute authority.
There are many men whom Cia trusts in this book. The same cannot be said about the women.
I completely hate the attitude that there can only be one bright, prevailing female presence in a book.