Friday, 21 February 2014

The Testing

Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Series: #1 in The Testing series
Series Order: #2 - Independent Study (2014), #3 - Graduation Day (2014)
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Series: #1 in the Testing Trilogy
Other Books in Series: #2 Independent Study (Jan 2014)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
First Published: June 2013
First Line: "Graduation Day - I can hardly stand still as my mother straightens my celebratory red tunic and tucks a strand of light brown hair behind my ear."

Book Description from GoodReadsKeep 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.

My Review:  Let's just get it out of the way, shall we?  There are a LOT of similarities between this book and The Hunger Games.  This fact will influence how much people enjoy this book because it's going to bother some readers and it's going to please other readers who are avid fans of the two very popular series.

Personally, I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games but, admittedly, my enjoyment of the series started off strong and quickly went downhill as I finished the trilogy.  I'm still a fairly avid fan of the dystopian/YA genre and I eagerly picked up this book because I was in the mood for something fast-paced and light (if teens in lethal and psychological testing can be deemed 'light').  Add to the fact that I'm always on the hunt for new reads for Boy 2 and this book was a no-brainer. {Note: Boy 2 read this book in less than a day and is already reading the second book in the series, Independent Study.  That boy reads faster than his Mama!}

Ok, so this book has similarities to The Hunger Games.  If you can get over that fact I believe that The Testing holds its own in the YA/Dystopian genre.  There were lots of high action scenes, interesting main characters and a lot of secondary characters to round things out. I never felt like I had a hard time remembering the numerous secondary characters either which is saying something because there are quite a lot of them.

I really enjoyed seeing how Charbonneau describes Cia's world.  She took the time to give the reader a clear picture of where Cia's coming from and the desolation of it all.  The author didn't berate me with endless history lessons on how the earth was destroyed but just enough for me to get a good idea of how and why things happened.

I think one of the things that sets this dystopian/YA read apart is that the characters view this testing differently.  No one is forced into The Testing, in fact, it's an honour to be one of the few chosen because it means a much more positive future for the honouree's family.  The testing is also kept a secret from the masses so no one really knows what to expect.

I also liked the fact that there were different tests that the teens had to perform.  Not just one big survival test but psychological, leadership etc that makes me wonder how the powers that be will use this information in future books.  It was also interesting to see how some of the candidates handled the pressures of the testing.  It always felt like no one was safe and that makes for a good suspenseful read in my book.

Cia was a good main character and I felt like the reader got a good glimpse into her who she really is.  She was strong, intelligent and had her own arsenal of talents to help her get through.  Cia was determined, devoted to her friends and stood up for the things that mattered to her.  She's a girl that I could totally root for but not without her own weaknesses too.

As I mentioned, there are numerous secondary characters to round out the cast.  Tomas was .... ok.  There's something about him that I just don't trust but I'll wait until I read more before I firm up my feelings on him.  Michel was a much more intriguing character (albeit not in the story much) but I predict he'll be used to make waves in the future books.

Even with its strong similarities to The Hunger Games I really enjoyed this read.  There were enough twists, action scenes and interesting characters to keep me riveted to the storyline.  There are little teasers given at the end of the book -- enough to make me need to encourage Boy 2 to hurry up with Independent Study so I can continue on in Cia's story. Overall, I'd have to say that I enjoyed this book more than Divergent but just slightly less than The Hunger Games.  I look forward to reading the next book in this trilogy, Independent Study, very soon.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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