by Joelle Charbonneau
Original Publishing Date: June 4, 2013
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Obtained Via: Won(Thanks to Brittany at the Book Addict’s Guide!)
Format Read In: ARC
View from the Traffic Light:
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.
For every Dystopia book that’s been published since The Hunger Games, I don’t think any have been as reminiscent of Katniss’ story as The Testing. Upfront, there is very little original about this story. And yet, despite the similarities(which I know it’s a popular thing to do in regards to Dystopias, but really can’t be helped in this case), The Testing is one of the few that really deliver a world that’s as horrifying and chilling as Panem(though perhaps not as well laid-out).
Cia is not the most engaging main character, especially at first, but by the middle of this book I could follow her story well enough. At the end of book 1, I’m not quite sure why she’s the narrator of this trilogy, because she hasn’t done anything to stand out from other characters so far. She’s survived The Testing, but so did other candidates. This isn’t really a criticism, because there are hints that her story may be going somewhere really interesting in future books, but it’s definitely an observation to consider. If you read mainly for characterization, I don’t think this may be the right book.
That being said, I did really enjoy The Testing. The world-building was fairly solid, and I thought Charbonneau did a really good job of incorporating information into the book without making it too info-dumpy. I still have a few questions about the institution of The Testing, but there are hints those things will come to light in the future so I’m all right with waiting for now. I felt by the end of the book I had a pretty firm handle on how this world worked.
The atmosphere of The Testing was chilly and horrifying. There was one scene in particular(won’t say for fear of spoilers), where I realized that The Testing was not a book that was playing at being a Dystopia. This was not a book that had a single death perfectly in place to scare readers just enough before getting back to the action(or more likely, romance). This was the kind of book where horrible things happen simply because the government wants them to. The safety of the characters was NEVER guaranteed. Candidates turned on one another and did awful things. Cia had to confront her own ability to do similar things all for the sake of survival. Cia nor any of the other candidates got off easy when it came to issues of survival and morality.
It was at this point in the book, when I realized The Testing was serious as a Dystopia, that I became invested in it as a reader. So while Cia’s characterization felt a little flat and it wasn’t the most original book, it IS a book I can get behind in this genre. It might not offer anything original, but I think in some ways it’s going back to the basics, and I’m okay with that.
Final Impression: The Testing is by no means flawless, and I can see a lot of people looking at it as a rip-off of The Hunger Games. And while I see that, The Testing did for me as a reader what few Dystopias have done recently: made me terrified of the society. There may be tried-and-true plot elements here, but in this case, they work on really bringing The Testing back to basic Dystopia level and telling an intriguing and often horrifying story. 4/5 cupcakes.