Title: The Testing (The Testing #1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau (website)
Pub. Date: June 4, 2013
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Houghton Mifflin!)
Summary: 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.
Genre: YA, Dystopia
“Well maybe that’s what the whole test is really about. Leaders are forced to kill all the time. Then they have to learn to live with the decisions they make. Just like I’m going to learn to live with mine.”
After a devastating war nearly wiped out the entire population, those left are struggling to pick up the pieces. New colonies are sprouting up in the ruined husks of once-thriving cities. Both food and water are scarce, but civilization has pressed on and remain hopeful for their future.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one already.
Malencia – Cia – Vale has reached Graduation Day, the day when she’ll be recognized as an adult in the eyes of her colony. Unfortunately for Cia, the day is not as joyful as she had hoped. After years of her colony being passed over for Testing candidates, four children are chosen and Cia is one of them. Those chosen for the Testing are required to undergo multiple tests and not everyone reaches the end. Not everyone survives. Those who do pass are then able to attend the University and learn skills to better their society.
Cia knows there’s a possibility she’ll never see her family again. What was originally an exciting affair is now solemn and filled with unsaid thoughts. Before she leaves, Cia’s father shares his own Testing experience – and it’s not what Cia wants to hear. Her father sometimes has flashbacks, wiped memories have been resurfacing. Cia is warned not to trust anyone, but will she follow that advice?
The Testing was hailed as the next Hunger Games – a title nearly every new dystopia series has held at one point or another. In my eyes, The Testing is The Hunger Games meets Divergent meets Battle Royale. In the worst way possible.
The book reads as though the author (who has written a few adult mysteries before trying her hand at YA) compiled every dystopia trope into story form. Threadbare backstory about a terrible (& unexplained) war: CHECK. Colony in Chicago: CHECK. No food sources or clean water, but still able to have things like cake: CHECK. Big Brother-type organization/government: CHECK. A select few chosen to compete in a series of tests/battles to determine who’s fit to move up in the world: CHECK. A childhood friend who’s possibly more: CHECK. A bad guy who is more than he seems: CHECK. A good guy who isn’t everything he seems: CHECK. I could go on.
The most frustrating part of the book surprisingly wasn’t the over-abundance of tropes. Instead, it was the utter lack of explanation. Why were these kids going through these tests? What was the point? These are supposed to be the best and brightest students in the colonies, yet the government aims to pit them against one another, provide them with weapons, and sit back while they kill each other. How does that further society? It seemed to me Cia’s colony was doing just fine without any Testing candidates for those years.
Once the Testing begins, the book read like the worst parts of Harry Potter‘s camping scenes: Cia and Tomas are wandering around catching fish and rabbits, eating berries, cleaning and dressing their wounds. Repeat ad nauseam for the next two hundred pages. Occasionally there’s a mutant creature/human (the aftereffects of the War) and a few times the pair crosses paths with another candidate. There are also groups of people living outside the borders, people who refuse to live by the government’s rules. Again, I’ve read this same story way too many times now.
The author did very little – if anything – to bring a new aspect to an overwritten genre. The killing and brutality these children partake in is accepted because their memories are wiped at the end of the Testing. SO IT’S OKAY GUYS, SEE!
The Testing was one eyeroll after the next. The only interesting part was at the very end – and I mean the very end. In the last two or so paragraphs Cia discovers a recording she made before her memories were wiped. Suddenly she realizes what she went through and who she shouldn’t trust. And there the book ends. I really ought to learn my lesson by now – Dystopia as a genre just isn’t for me. The Testing only confirmed that.
Die-hard fans of the genre and those looking for a familiar (extremely!) story will most likely enjoy The Testing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. There were too many questions left unanswered and plot points left unexplained.