Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genre: YA, dystopian
Series? Yes, The Testing #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
I read a lot of negative reviews, and almost didn’t buy The Testing, but I’m glad I did, because this is definitely worth a chance! The comparisons to The Hunger Games and Divergent are deserved, but Charbonneau takes the basic elements of those books and adds them with her own originality to create a heart pounding series opener. The characters were all very well developed, and the plot never seems to lag or meander, despite the fact that it’s set in a school-like setting for a good half of the book. I suggest giving it a chance, and read the book for yourself before judging it.
Let this book be an example that sometimes it’s worth it to take a chance and buy a book despite the naysayers! I had a giftcard to Barnes and Noble for Christmas, and I decided to be bold and purchase The Testing, even though I had read several negative reviews. And I’m so glad I did!
The main problem that I’ve seen mentioned is that The Testing is like the love child of The Hunger Games and Divergent. Well, that’s true. I won’t deny the similarities. But instead of feeling like a ripoff, The Testing has taken all the fantastic basic elements of THG (deadly races and fights to the death between young teens) and Divergent (castes and government-guided placement), and mixed them together with enough originality to make The Testing a very refreshing dystopian novel.
The the beginning of the novel, I was feeling a bit iffy about the whole thing, but this is another one of those slow-burner novels. The second half propels itself into heart-stopping, action-packed, mystery-stuffed drama that had me gripping the pages and gasping out loud several times. And that cliffhanger was KILLER – I nearly screamed (though it was 12am and I didn’t want to wake the rest of the house) because I was so frustrated and I DIDN’T HAVE INDEPENDENT STUDY.
I’ll also mention the characters: Charbonneau has not only created main characters that I can root for, but her secondary characters are very well developed as well. In fact, I may have been more attached to the secondary characters than I was the primary, at least for the first half of the novel! As for Cia and Tomas, and their romance, I wasn’t totally convinced by it, since it had some flavors of insta-love. But they’ve known each other since childhood, so I let it slide. I guess it’s more of that “why are we falling in love when our lives are in danger at every moment and we need to focus on saving our butts?” sort of thing.
Overall, I did have a few nitpicks here and there, but in the end this was a really enjoyable book, and it kept me entertained for several hours. Now I can’t wait to read Independent Study – but I’ve heard it has an even worse cliffhanger, so I’m holding off till Graduation Day’s release date is a bit closer this summer. But, thanks to the lovely Andi, I have my copy whenever I’m ready!
My Final Rating: