Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 336
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia

First in The Testing series. 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 received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley. }

To me, The Testing kind of sounded like The Hunger Games with an academic twist. So since I'm a huge Hunger Games fan and an academically-inclined person (meaning, I'd totally be a professional student if I could), I grabbed up The Testing on NetGalley as soon as I saw it offered. I found it was quite similar to The Hunger Games in a lot of ways, so I guess that might be a negative for some readers. But I thought it had some interesting ideas that made it its own, and I did find myself wanting to read the next book in the series.

The synopsis above sums up The Testing quite well. There's not a lot of time spent getting to know Cia or her world before she goes off to the Testing, which I was kind of disappointed in. I felt like I didn't really get a chance to know who Cia was or who her friends were or how she lived, so that when she left it all behind it was just kind of an "eh" moment for me, rather than feeling her loss. However, the upside of that is that it does jump into the action pretty much right away, so we get right into the story.

The trials in the Testing were interesting, although at some points it did seem a little over the top or a little needless-violence-y. But then again, The Hunger Games was pretty violent, and I liked that. I had a hard time trying to figure out why I felt differently about the two, but I came down to the fact that I guess it's the justification - the Hunger Games are a fight to the death, a fight for survival mandated by a corrupt government, and the Testing is essentially an application process. I guess I had a harder time accepting death and dismemberment when the unsuccessful applicants could have just as easily been sent back home. The corruption and secrets and all that regarding the Testing and the University do start to emerge, but I just felt like it was missing earlier on, or maybe it was there but too subtle for me.

The Testing ends with a good bit of suspense and lead-up into the next book in the series, and as I said I do want to read the next one. But I feel like it might be a make-or-break book. I finished The Testing feeling like the next book, Independent Study, needs to grab me right away in order to keep my interest in the story. I really hope it does.

If you haven't read The Testing yet and you like challenge-type books in a dystopian setting like The Hunger Games, I'd definitely recommend it. It's familiar yet different; it follows the pattern but it adds some ideas of its own. But, in all honesty, if you're a reader who's had enough Hunger-Games-type books, you may want to pass; it might be a little too familiar for you. Personally, I don't mind reading different interpretations of similar ideas, so I liked it.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

More about Joelle Charbonneau }

Joelle Charbonneau's website
Joelle Charbonneau's Goodreads profile
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{ The Testing series }

               The Testing         Independent Study     Graduation Day
                   Book 1                      Book 2                      Book 3
                                        Expected Release Date:     Expected Release Date:
                                         January 7, 2014             June 3, 2014


  1. Those second books are tricky. I'm so often disappointed. Hope this one come through for you.