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)