Friday, October 25, 2013

REVIEW: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing, #1)
Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau Website Twitter Facebook
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary 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.

First Thoughts: After a self-imposed dystopian hiatus, this was just the book I needed to get me going again!

Let me start by saying I am a HUGE fan of dystopians! So much so, that for awhile it was all I read - I was stuck in a rut. Over the summer, I made myself take a break. I read realistic fiction, verse novels, historical fiction, paranormals - everything but dystopians. I’m glad I took that break for two reasons. One, I read some AMAZING books that might have taken a backseat otherwise. Two, when I ended my hiatus, it made The Testing that much better.

As always, I loved the strong female protagonist. Cia knows what’s right and she’ll do anything to fight for it, even if it makes her look weak or too trusting. There were points I wanted to put the book down and yell at her for some of her decisions. There were points I thought she was crazy for trusting certain people (even when her dad told her “trust no one”...come on Cia!!).  But, after I turned the final page, I realized Cia was Cia; she, unlike many characters, stayed true to herself through the entire testing process. And that, more than anything, is what I loved about her.

As a reader, I really enjoyed the “trust no one” premise. I constantly found myself questioning every characters’ motives. I, along with Cia, never knew who was good or who was bad. That tension kept me on the edge of my seat up until the very last page.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I almost could have done without the romance in the novel altogether. I liked Cia on her own, and I didn’t want her to rely on Tomas for survival. Plus, the love between Cia and Tomas is not entirely believable at first. I needed more of a build-up: tension-filled moments, stolen glances, questioning feelings. It jumped from kind of liking to in love too fast for me.

At times, I did feel that The Testing featured some extreme parallels to The Hunger Games. Now, this is true for almost every dystopian (they are all based on the same broken-down, corrupt government storyline after all), but there were moments I wished Charbonneau pushed the story further off the well-worn path. The biggest sticking point, for me, was the premise of teens killing each other to win a competition, in this case The Test. Overall though, The Testing features enough unique differences that is does stand on its own.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book, and I’m just as excited for its sequel - Independent Study. This is going to be a top recommendation for all of my dystopian readers - a great series for them to continue on with!

Who Should Read It? Dystopian fans, this is a must-read for you! If you tore through The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Legend then you will fly through this one as well. It has action, intrigue, just a bit of romance, and it will leave you hanging at the end of every chapter. And, added bonus for my students, Joelle Charbonneau is a local author - how cool!

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