Scratches that Dystopian Itch
Now I know the dystopian trend in YA is on the downswing, but sometimes I just crave reading a book about a totalitarian government ruining the lives of an energetic protagonist and her family after the world as we know it was destroyed by nuclear war in the not-too-distant future. Thankfully for me, Joelle Charbonneau’s “The Testing” scratched that dystopian itch.
“The Testing” follows Cia in the days after she graduates from school. The socialist-like society she lives in has a rule that only those graduates who get to go to college are those who are selected for The Testing. This four-stage test has been established to prove candidates’ worthiness to attend the University, and ultimately become the next generation of leaders. Cia is one of the lucky few selected for The Testing, and as we follow her along her Testing journey, we realize that she might not be so lucky after all.
What makes “The Testing” stand out from other dystopian offerings is that the contenders’ end goal in The Testing is not food, water, or overthrowing the government. Instead, they are all fighting for an education. By attending the University, people in Cia’s world are essentially guaranteed money and status for the rest of their lives. This motivation to participate in The Testing seems reminiscent to the goals and struggles college students are experiencing today. A college degree in our world opens the door to a multitude of options that are unavailable without that piece of paper, and I was impressed that Charbonneau could translate that reality into a dystopian novel aimed at teens who may be just about to enter the complicated world of higher education.
Throughout this brutal college admissions process, Charbonneau does a great job of acknowledging questions Cia’s challenges present about the society she lives in: Why can’t everyone get an equal shot at entering the University? Why is their so much mystery surrounding what goes on in The Testing among the society at large? Why are the test administrators so willing to put these teens through such brutality? As a warning to those diving into “The Testing,” all your questions are not going to be answered. However, Charbonneau solidly establishes the problems within the world she has created and gives us just enough answers to some of the questions that arise. Charbonneau has created the perfect mix of Q&A that gets readers hooked and ready to find out more about Cia’s struggles in Book 2.
A cliffhanger that simultaneously feels like you haven't been cheated yet can't wait for more.
Highlights the value of higher education in our own world.
One of the Best Books I've Ever Read
It is no secret that I am not a fan of dystopians. Yet, Joelle Charbonneau manages to do something with The Testing I have been waiting to have happen: written a dystopian I loved and adored and am STILL thinking about months later. Joelle Charbonneau has crafted a futuristic world that will just captivate you.
I love the contrast between The Testing and Joelle Charbonneau's other books. Her others are wacky mysteries, and with The Testing she dives into the world of YA with a psychological, dark gritty dystopian.
The Testing brings out all the emotions. The stakes are immensely high and it is chilling. The reality factor is a huge part of that - this whole situation could definitely happen and that is what makes The Testing so neat. It really is just a psychological mind twist - I can never quite wrap my head around it.
The Testing consists of four stages and with each, the stakes become higher. Joelle Charbonneau doesn't allow anyone the comfort of safety. Characters are pegged off like dominoes. It makes everything really unsettling, as I never knew who to trust. I love that risk of knowing no one is safe. Joelle Charbonneau takes what I would consider some risky decisions and it really pays off in the end. The Testing was a complete win.
The world is really neat. The Testing is set in what used to be the United States; only now it is the United States after it survived Seven Stages of War. I love the structure of the world and how all of this led to The Testing being formed.
Cia is such a strong main character. She is intelligent and a little bit of the underdog. I love her conviction with everything she does. Michal is such an intriguing character and I really hope to see lots more of him in the next two books. He played such a small role, but I think he was my favorite character in The Testing.
Reminiscent of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, readers will love this thrilling debut from Joelle Charbonneau. It has been awhile since I have become so emotionally invested in a book. By the time I finished, I felt like my heart had been forced through a paper shredder. The characters and the plot, I just was so attached. I cannot wait to read more from Joelle Charbonneau and see what is next for the cast of The Testing. Basically, The Testing is the book of the season and I just loved it so much.
A Great, New Dystopian
I just have to start off with saying this: This is not another Hunger Games. I see a lot of reviews complaining about how similar this book is to The Hunger Games and how this is just a copy. Yes, these books are very similar to one another (especially the last half), but there are more differences. And it is a dystopian book. Every dystopian book has something in common with The Hunger Games, it happens.
Anyway, now that I got that out of the way! I'm actually writing this book after reading this for the 2nd time and I still enjoyed reading this book the 2nd time around! This book is well-written and definitely original!
I was very fascinated with The Testing, I thought it was horrible what society was doing to these teens , but I thought that the idea was very interesting and very well thought-out. I really liked out main character, Cia. It is very obvious why she's in The Testing. She's an absolute genius and can figure problems out. She's also a very strong leader. Not the kind that The Testing is looking for, as they are looking for those who do not care for human life, but she is the kind of leader that should actually lead.
The only issue that I had was the romance. It's not bad, I actually like the love interest, but I found it a bit ridiculous. I honestly felt like The Testing was not the time for romance.
This book is kind of a hit or miss for most people, to be honest. Like I said, many people complain about Hunger Games parallels and those people don't enjoy the book. My advice: Do not compare this book while reading it. It will ruin the experience for you.
Now, I, enjoyed reading this book (again!) and will definitely continue the trilogy! That was actually the whole point of me rereading this...
A Better Hunger Games
I received The Testing in exchange for an honest review.
I wasn't entirely sure of what to think when I picked up The Testing. Now that I've finished reading it I further wonder how people can possibly enjoy The Hunger Games so much when books like this are out there.
Cia Vale, the main character of The Testing, was amazing. Not many authors seem to be capable of creating such likable characters who aren't heavily conceited or shallow and boy crazy. I always find it a relief to find a book where the romantic interest doesn't save the heroine at every turn. It makes books that could have been amazing dull when that kind of thing is always happening.
Tomas was also a likable character I really appreciated how he didn't protect or rely on Cia too much. That kind of behavior has often made me drop a book like it was on fire in the past.
Not Any Kind of Test You Would Actually Want to Take
Malencia "Cia" Vale lives in a small community with her loving family, and she's rapidly approaching graduation from school and adulthood. She's a clever, smart girl with some skill for mechanics, and she would like to be chosen for the Testing, which, if she passed, would put her on the path to becoming a leader in her post-apocalyptic world. The United Commonwealth runs the show in Cia's world, and no one from her community had been chosen for the Testing in many years. Her father has actually gone through the process, but he doesn't talk about it, probably because he can't really remember what happened. After the Testing, everyone's memories of what happened during the process are wiped, though he does sometimes get haunting nightmares. With the knowledge that the Testing may be even harder and more sinister than she expected, Cia is selected and sent off to magnificent Tosu City. The Testing is brutal and cruel and death and sabotage are common. As she maneuvers through the Testing, she gains and loses allies and enemies and even sparks a romance with a fellow candidate. The Testing is a book that fans of dystopians will probably enjoy. Definitely a trilogy to look out for, and it could easily be turned into a film or TV adaptation. Thank you, Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving me the galley for this book!
Looking Forward to the Sequel
THE TESTING (The Testing, #1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Genre: YA Dystopia
Format: Digital ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Recommended Reading: 14+
Contains no spoilers.
Received free copy in exchange for an honest review.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: The Testing may have arrived a little too late to be as “epic” as the premise’s potential for greatness could have allowed. I can’t deny it: the elephant in the room is The Hunger Games, and to a degree, even Divergent and Matched. Alas, it’s difficult to stand out in the world of dystopia, which is why it’s a dying genre (some say it’s already dead, but I disagree). Having said all that, this was a really good book. A few small things bothered me, but nothing I couldn’t overlook, and I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel.
SYNOPSIS: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
BREAKDOWN: The Testing follows sixteen year old, Cia Vale. Much like her dystopian counterpart Katniss, Cia is thrown into a cruel and dangerous scenario that calls into question the pure cruelty of the powers that be in her society. She plays along out of sheer survival instinct, all the while developing a new found disgust and indignation toward her government. The similarities don’t necessarily end there, but the rest I’ll chalk up to being ‘reminiscent’ of Hunger Games and not an outright copycat. Truly, the author definitely created her own world in which it was easy to follow Cia’s journey and really care for her outcome.
As far as writing style, the piece felt a little less mature than some of the other dystopian novels out there. I didn’t mind that so much as the fact that the clues and foreshadowing were a tiny bit heavy-handed, as was some of the world building. Cia happened to have a lot of random skills that were just a little too convenient for my taste, but hey, she sure got the job done. All of that is nitpicking, so I’ll move on to the good stuff.
Cia was easy to connect and identify with. She was smart, capable, and endearing, albeit naïve. Cia’s country was pretty interesting, though reminiscent of Ally Condie’s Matched. It’s very obvious that the author, Charbonneau, put a lot of background work into developing The United Commonwealth and it’s fictional alternate history as the former United States. I would imagine there is much more in her notes than made it into the book, which is a great thing because it’s clearly so developed. I could’ve used a little less of that background being shared in such large chunks, but that may just be my personal taste.
The storyline itself is inventive, and certainly held my interest quite well. I was entertained and excited to see what was next. I was happy to see how Cia’s character developed, though she was the only character that did seem to develop at all. But I liked her, so I enjoyed reading her journey. It was not the type of book that gripped my heart, but it was entertaining, and I liked it a lot.
The Testing certainly had its violent moments, but nothing I felt was too gruesome. And the romance was definitely nothing I’m concerned for young readers to witness, as it was pretty innocent. I wish there were something I could rave about, but there was no individual thing I loved about this book. It was simply a good read that I’ll look forward to continuing to follow when the sequel becomes available.
(Review originally posted on GliteraryGirl.com)
If Divergent and The Hunger Games had a baby...
Imagine that The Hunger Games and Divergent series got together and had a baby. That was what The Testing was like. It was a smashup of everything you enjoyed from Tris/Four and Katniss/Peeta with a bit of newness to keep things fresh.
Right away you will notice similarities. They are undeniable. Dystopian setting, factions ("colonies" this time around), special skills, select kids fighting it out until the bitter end, corrupt government, etc. You get the picture. As I was reading, it was hard not to think about the other books because so many things reminded me of them. To be honest, at times I was tired of reading because it felt old.
Luckily, there were a few differences that kept this from feeling too stale and repetitive. First, Cia is different. She is not fierce like Katniss and Tris. She is a thinker with a compassionate side. Her inner instincts are not to kill or fight to the bitter death. As you can imagine, that makes her situation very different. Her love interest, Tomas, is very different as well. He has the devotion of Peeta and the secrets of Four. He's not as moody, but there is something different about him. Unfortunately, you really don't discover what it is in The Testing. You'll have to read book two!
Another difference to this "game" or test that the characters are facing is pretty solid. There is an academic element to the selection process. The purpose of the testing reminds me of the factions in Divergent, but I can see how things will be different as the story plays out.
I was also glad to see the world building in this one. The land has been ravished by mankind. Four years of physical war was followed by three years of war by natural elements. After the Seven Stages of War, everything is destroyed and it's not coming back any time soon. The land cannot sustain life and the radiation from nuclear blasts have left many things mutated and dangerous. The perils the University candidates face during their testing is intense.
I thought the writing of The Testing was solid. It was descriptive and detailed. The finer points of the plot were well thought out and executed flawlessly. Unfortunately, I still thought about The Hunger Games and Divergent/Insurgent as I read. If I had not read those series, this would be fantastic. I would be singing its praises of originality and uniqueness. But, instead of being original it came across more as a mash up of the other books, which took away from my response. I still enjoyed it, and I certainly want to read the other books. I hope they become more unique as the story continues to make this another strong contender in the dystopian genre.
There were so many things that I enjoyed about The Testing – the pacing, the suspense, the drama! And those three elements combined to make The Testing a highly addictive and compelling read. But there were also things that kept me from really loving what The Testing had to offer – certain plot holes, the abundance of dystopian tropes and a narrative that read, at times, slightly cold and calculating. So while I would say that, ultimately, I did enjoy The Testing, it wasn’t without its flaws.
It’s easy to see why there have been so many comparisons to The Hunger Games since when you edit out some of the particulars, they sound quite similar: a teenaged girl from a relatively unknown, rural sector is chosen to participate in the Testing, a yearly event which brings pride and wealth to her home town. She finds comfort and romance with a boy from her hometown, who is also one of the chosen. Her intelligence and ability to survive is put to the test in a competition against her peers, who are encouraged to use deadly force to further their own interests, and she discovers her government has secrets they’re desperate to keep hidden. But to be completely honest, the similarities didn’t bother me because Cia honestly didn’t know what she was getting herself in to.
What did bother me about The Testing, however, were certain plot holes that I’m surprised weren’t explained. How is it that a society has the technology to create solar-powered hover vehicles, cameras and televisions, but they don’t have a large-scale communication system? As Cia herself pointed out, why don’t people question what happens to those candidates who fail the Testing? If sinister things aren’t happening, why do those who make it to the University need to have their memories wiped? And what’s the point of it all? Why bring together the best of the best, only to kill off the majority? How will that further society? And then there were the abundance of dystopian tropes that read like the author had followed a “How to Write Dystopian for Dummies,” recipe: a post-apocalyptic setting that hints at biological warfare, with info-dumps in spades, yet we’re left without the details about the actual war; a Big Brother-esque government that plays at being well-intentioned; a lack of clean drinking water and food sources, but the protagonist recognizes cake; rebel influences that know details about the protagonist they shouldn’t and that believe the protagonist will be the key in bringing down the corrupt government; a childhood friend who becomes more while simultaneously breaking the protagonists’ trust; and so on. While the existence of these tropes didn’t necessarily detract from my enjoyment of The Testing, I was pulled out of the story, if only temporarily, with every instance I happened across.
The Testing’s plot wasn’t all bad though, as the action was non-stop and the heightened sense of survival kept me in suspense and on the edge of my seat! There was never a dull moment, especially with the constant threat from the Big Brother government, and the danger lurking behind every turn. I loved being surprised by which candidates turned on their peers and which ones stuck true to their values. I did find that Cia’s adamance to remain true to herself and how her parents raised her, while noble and slightly endearing, was a bit naive and foolish; in a race to the finish, with the threat of death increasing with every minute, worrying about whether a mutated creature has any of its humanity left would not be at the top of my priority list. Worrying about those creatures though, would be; inhuman, animal-like speed and agility, combined with the cunning and intelligence of a higher-order species? Enough to give me nightmares!
Cia was an interesting protagonist. I admired her intelligence and ability to remain calm under pressure, and her moments of strength and perseverance far surpassed her moments of weakness. She learned from her mistakes and trusted easily, which would eventually be exploited by her enemies. But while I was able to appreciate Cia as a protagonist, she was never someone I warmed up to, never someone I would say I could relate to. Her intelligence had her approach every situation like it was a test, so her reactions were always calculated. There were moments where she almost broke, where she almost reacted from emotion instead of logic, but she always managed to reel in her emotions at the last minute. It made her narration slightly cold and detached, as she didn’t feel anything deeply – or if she did, she was able to push it aside in order to focus on the task at hand.
I also found that Charbonneau’s writing mirrored Cia’s thought process, in that The Testing was written very matter-of-factly, with precision and without passion. While it added to The Testing’s great pacing, since everything was short and to the point, it didn’t create a very lyrical or make for an overly memorable reading experience.
Despite my reservations, I did enjoy The Testing. It was a fairly quick read, and I found myself eager to return to its story whenever I did have to set it down. While I won’t be rushing out to buy the sequel on release day, this is a series that I will be continuing with!
I have absolutely zero self control when it comes to dystopian books. I just have this urge to read any dystopian book I can get my hands on and often I end up extremely disappointed. So many authors are trying to capitalize off the success of The Hunger Games and so their books turn out to be very mediocre. The Testing is essentially a wanna-be, it tries so hard to be the next Hunger Games yet it ultimately fails.
The Testing is about a test that will determine whether or not you can go to University. This sounds like an awesome idea but it turns out this extreme standardized test has already been done before and way better (ex: Legend). Next up we have a protagonist who is very one dimensional and suffers from lack of development. I was pretty apathetic and didn't care for Cia at all. Next up we have a love interest whose whole demeanor screamed "Peeta impostor" in my mind. Cia and Tomas's relationship was awfully similar to Katniss and Peeta's romance, there is even a moment that reminded me of the cave scene from The Hunger Games.
The problem with The Testing is that it's pretty tedious and at times it felt like a chore. It's not a good sign when all of your homework is done and you're avoiding the book you're reading. The first half of The Testing (or so) is literally dialogue and Cia taking written exams. The dialogue isn't even witty or entertaining, sometimes the reader wasn't even informed what actually was said. There were so many times in The Testing when instead of saying verbatim what the character said, Charbonneau just tells the reader what they were talking about. The dialogue that was in The Testing was pretty basic and was nothing special at all.
The relationships between the characters were extremely underdeveloped and I didn't care for any of the characters. I don't even remember any of the characters' names (except Cia) because they were so bland and unremarkable. I even had to look up what Cia's love interest was named which is very sad! I remember the characters from books that I read years and years ago, yet I couldn't remember the names of the characters from this book. Nothing stood out to me about these characters because they never really caught my attention.
The romance in this book is extremely awkward and badly done. Cia and Tomas's relationship is built on absolutely nothing and they have zero chemistry at all. The fact that they are from the same area and that they are both taking The Testing, doesn't mean that they have to fall in love with each other. I didn't even understand why Cia and Tomas even liked each other because there was no spark between them. I'm not sure why the author included a romance, my guess is to conform with the generic dystopian mold.
The Testing has some shoddy world-building and I had zero idea how The United Commonwealth was formed. The United Commonwealth was a total mystery to me and I feel like I knew nothing about it at all. To tell you the truth, if there was any world building I'm not sure I would have even cared because I was so bored with this book. I wanted to Charbonneau to make me care about the world she created but she never did.
The Testing isn't absolutely terrible, there a few good things about it. The ending of this book is actually executed surprisingly well and I loved the final action sequences. The author set up the sequel in an extremely interesting way but I don't really have any interest in reading the sequel. (I probably won't read it, but I'm not ruling out the possibility that I will read it). The only thing I didn't like about the ending was the extremely obvious setting up of a love triangle; does every book really need a love triangle? I'm getting sick and tired of all these love triangles because most of them are done so poorly.
I'm pretty confident that The Testing will become a popular book and will sell extremely well. The Testing already has received a starred from Publisher's Weekly and so many bloggers are obsessed with this book. I'm in the minority who didn't enjoy this book; maybe I have read way too many dystopian books. I feel like the dystopian genre can no longer surprise me because so many authors like Charbonneau are just recycling concepts that been done a thousand times over.
If you're looking to read a great dystopian book, The Testing is not for you.
-The author ends the book in a way that makes you want to read the sequel.
Even better than The Hunger Games
The Testing is set in the future on the Earth ravaged by wars. Humanity lives in small green oases which are man-made by soil-regeneration and genetic modification of plant life to grow in new conditions. I liked the world Joelle Charbonneau developed, it presents a scary but possible future for humanity. There is no info-dumping, instead we are presented with small significant (and insignificant) bits and facts through the whole book that in the end help us understand the society and the motives behind the Testing better.
Story is narrated by Cia. I immediately felt connection to her. Cia reminded me a lot of me when I was high school graduate (a geek, from a small community, hopes to go to The University). Because she is smart, problem-solver, compassionate, thinks before she acts and plans ahead, Cia is one of my favorite heroines in young adult novels. I wish there were more like her.
Sadly for Cia, she has no control over the decision if her education will be continued. Since college is expensive, government picks only the best to come to The Testing for The University. And believe me if you thought your exams for college entry were hard, you are going to rethink that statement after you see what Joelle Charbonneau has in store for our heroes.
As always, every time a novel is labeled as young adult dystopian, comparison to The Hunger Games is inevitable. But this time the advertisement is not lying. In many ways The Testing has some elements similar to The Hunger Games: heroine is a smart and resourceful young girl who with a group of teens is set to compete against each other in a battle of wits. But here the motives for this competition are much more reasonable to me, after all when you are choosing future world leaders and politicians, you need him to be able to endure pressure and be the best there is. In some sick way, their logic has some weird sense.
In fact, I liked The Testing more than The Hunger Games. There, I said it kill me now. Sorry but, I adored the heroine and the world was chilling but possible future for us. Something like this could truly happen people, so be careful!
I will stop singing praises about The Testing now, and if you waited for me to say something bad about this book - it's not going to happen. I would not change a thing. I can not wait to read more about Cia's adventures in a sequel Independent Study. I know that she will not give up to fight for the right cause.
"Funny, but giving up is the last thing I will do. Not after everything we have witnessed and the things we have been forced to do. Giving up would be like admitting none of it mattered. And it needs to matter. It needs to be remembered."
So, if you are in a mood for young adult dystopian novel who is set in a frighteningly possible future world with smart realistic characters, likeable heroine, cute friends to lover side romance (100% clean and young adult safe) then grab The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau. Or buy it as a birthday gift to those friends who loved The Hunger Games, there is a big chance they are going to enjoy this one too!
Disclaimer: I was given a free eBook by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.