Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

June 3, 2013 Book Review, Dystopian, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Joelle Charbonneau, Netgalley, The Testing, YA, Young Adult 31


Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: June 4th 2013
Source: Netgalley

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.

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It often feels like every Dystopian novel since The Hunger Games is compared to and marketed to the fans of it, no matter how similar or different they are. The Testing is the first one where I actually felt the comparison was more than warranted. Upon reading, I found an exciting and action-packed story to enjoy!

The world is in recovery from The Seven Stages of War. Not only did man wreck havoc on each other, but the earth underwent terrible catastrophes from natural disasters as well. The government has established the Testing, which is meant to test individuals on certain desirable traits and qualities and determine their worthiness for future leadership. If you are chosen, you are whisked away by the United Commonwealth government to Tosu City to undergo evaluations to determine placement at University. Honor is bestowed upon the families if your child is picked. As a memory wipe is done afterwards, destroying the memories of the events that took place, the Testing is not at all as it seems.

Our main character is Cia, who is embarking onto her Graduation Day with a lot of uncertainty of her future. The Testing is something she not only hoped for, but was scared of as well. Her father was once selected and attended the University and has since become a major player in the efforts to cultivate the earth and soil and genetically alter plants needed for food. When she hears the news of her acceptance, her father has some words of warning to be weary of who to trust.

What Cia finds herself put through is wrought with life altering decisions. People disappear and die, making every single decision in the Testing life threatening. They are testing on their math, science, history and most importantly their problem-solving skills through numerous stages. Some parts are hand-written and some parts are hands-on, all leading to the practical exam which drops the remaining candidates into the ‘wild’ with minimal means of survival, fighting to reach the finish line. This is probably the section with the most similarities to The Hunger Games. Many candidates will do anything to come out on top, even if it means eliminating the competition. There are also well placed trip wires and such, all seemingly left by the government as additional tests. And lets not forget the muttations, I mean the mutations, found in the animals and humans in the area who were affected by the high levels of radiation from the wars. That all sounds familiar, right? But in all honestly, it didn’t bother me too much. I actually found it amusing and entertaining, however, part of me thinks it was missing a little bit of that spark that I found in The Hunger Games.

Where there were all these similarities, there were also differences, the main being the main character. Cia is no Katiss. Where Katniss was a strong, fierce and an all around bad-ass character, Cia was strong more so in the intellectual sense. She had a great eye to detail and instinct, and loyal to a fault but maybe a little more vulnerable? I’d say she felt a little more ‘real’ for her age and teen readers may connect to her more.

There is a love story involved, but I’m still undecided about it. I think the whole, ‘trust no one’ vibe made me weary throughout. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and perhaps that made it more exciting and engaging. Same with the additional secondary characters. Some were seriously demented and others I wanted to drag out of this mess.

All in all, I really enjoyed this Dystopian and look forward to the sequel, which is where I think the series may veer off from The Hunger Games comparisons a bit. I would recommend this series to its fans as well as those just looking for a heart-pumping and action-packed read!

Sara @ Forever 17 Books

31 Responses to “Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau”

  1. Jasprit

    I’ve read some real mixed reviews for this book, so I was really uncertain about where I would stand. I do seem to be going through a dystopian binge at the moment, so I’m sure that I can try and squeeze this in somewhere! So glad you had fun reading this Sara. Another wonderful review! 🙂

  2. Aman

    Like Jasprit, I’ve read some mixed reviews on this one, but your review really makes me want to grab a copy of Testing and start reading it. I absolutely loved Hunger Games and I can see the similarities this one has with HG, but there is definitely enough difference. Even though Paige is not as strong and smart as Katniss, I like that we can relate to her. Fantastic review, Sara!

  3. YA Book Queen

    I got a Hunger Games vibe during the last test too. But, this book surprised me! It was much better and eerier than I thought it would be.

    Glad you enjoyed it too! Great review 🙂

  4. tonyalee @ lilybloombooks

    I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on this one. Especially about the comparison to The Hunger Games. I’m still on the fence about it but your review pushed me a little bit more towards YES.

    Great review ! 🙂

  5. Jessica Leigh

    Great review Sara! I’ve heard some good things about this one and I’m kicking myself now for now getting it during that 2 day thing on NetGalley. I don’t mind if it’s similar to Hunger Games. I remember everyone making a huge deal about JLA’s Covenant series because of how similar it is to Vampire Academy. If it’s a well done idea, I don’t mind the similarities, as long as it makes itself unique in some way. Will definitely be adding this one to the shelf!

    Jessica@Lovin’ Los Libros

    • Sara @ Forever 17 Books

      I’ve heard that comparison too though I have not read either of those books. I don’t think I mind similarities too much if, like you said, there is something unique about them too. 🙂

  6. Vivien

    I read the prequel but really wasn’t wowed by it. I don’t have much interest in reading the novel. It felt too ‘familiar’.

  7. Lauren Elizabeth

    Hooray for a heroine’s strength not being just physical, but intellectual! I’m glad to hear the comparisons to the Hunger Games are warranted for once, they are used way too often and incorrectly mostly. I’m really curious about this one, can’t wait to see if I like it too. Lovely review!

  8. starryeyedjen

    I passed on this one because I’m a little tired of dystopians, but it sounds like I may have done so prematurely. Great review, Sara!

  9. Rachel Edmundson

    I want to read this so bad! I got it on Netgalley but it archived the next day so I couldn’t read it 🙁 I need to just order it, it sounds awesome!

  10. Nadine

    Nice review! I got this one too, from netgalley, but sadly there was an error and I can’t download the e-galley so I haven’t read the book. The story sounds pretty good, though. I also love the blue cover with that maze or something as a pattern. Might just add it to my TBR list soon 🙂

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