Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: The Testing (Joelle Charbonneau)

(Be sure not to miss the special announcement at the end of this review!)

The Testing (The Testing, #1)Title: The Testing
Series: The Testing, Book 1
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: Older Teen (violence throughout, kissing, minor gore, tense situations, survival situations)
Told: First Person (Cia), Present Tense
Format: ARC (publisher)
Find It On: Goodreads

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.

*          *          *

Cover: There have been several covers for this, including at least two different ARC covers (blue and black). But I think this final one is a good fit - very bold yet simple, with the definite feel of a dystopian series.

Writing: Clear and concise. It didn't feel like a quick read, but I never got lost, bored, or left behind. The plot was based on a structured timeline, which made it easy to follow.

Setting: The U.S. after a horrific Seven Stages War. The land is hard and unforgiving, the water contaminated and poisoned, and major cities lie in waste after bombings. A new government oversees scattered colonies and cities as the inhabitants struggle to adapt to the new, harsher environment. The scenario could be a possible one, and dread the thought.

Story: Cia is chosen for The Testing, a series of exams and evaluations that, if passed, earn her admission to University, and a proper education. But the tests turn out to be highly sinister as the stress, exams, and fellow candidates begin whittling down the competition. Considering how easy it is to get a "proper education" nowadays in the real world (maybe not so easy at an ivy league university, but there's always community college), it's hard to imagine anyone going to such brutal lengths just to attend college. But in such a world as theirs, and in the situations The Testing puts them in, it makes me wonder just how far I would go. (Who am I kidding, I would be totally dead by the end of Part Two.)

Characters: Cia was strong and smart and best of all practical. She watched and adapted and calculated to survive, and made sure to go with her gut. She wasn't a know-it-all, but a rational thinker who worked with what she had in both supplies and smarts. Tomas - friend, ally and love interest - was rather the same, except with a pinch of arrogance and cockiness and a jealous streak when it came to anyone getting between him and Cia. It's unusual to have a similar male lead to the female lead, but it worked well since they had to work together so much - and there was no question they would make a good match. It does make me wonder if he'll prove her "one" at the end of the series, though.

Relationships: There wasn't much to Cia and Tomas's relationship, simply because they were really too busy to find the time for it to grow. But I was okay with this - it proved they actually had some brains in their heads. And/or they were just too tired. ;)

The Hunger Games Comparisons: Many are saying The Testing is a little too similar to The Hunger Games. I will admit this was true for certain broader aspects here and there, but overall I felt the concept for The Testing was original and well done. I say don't penalize Testing for its Hunger Games similarities - embrace them and discover a new series to fill your Hunger Games void.

Conclusion: A well-written and thoroughly engaging book that I highly recommend. Can't wait to see what happens next in Book 2, Independent Study!

Scribble Rating
4 1/2 out of 5 Scribbles

Special Announcement: Come back tomorrow for an interview of the author, which will include a giveaway of an ARC and swag of The Testing!


  1. I keep hearing good things about this one! But I also keep hearing that it almost reminds people of The Hunger Games too much? I don't know, I guess I'll have to read it for myself and find out!

    1. I did feel it was somewhat similar to The Hunger Games here and there, but The Testing is original enough to stand on its own. Enjoy! :)

  2. I loved this book and my review will be up on my blog next week. Although very similar to The Hunger Games at times, it was a very enjoyable read that had my heart pounding. I pretty agree with your whole review. Nice!

  3. Great review! I've heard mixed things about the testing, but I always like to find out myself. I can't wait for this book! I'm counting down the days until this is in my hands! :)

    My Rafflecopter Name that I entered the giveaway with is: Vannah Batista

  4. I've seen a lot of people comparing this to The Hunger Games too, but I'm hoping that they are only faint similarities and nothing to obvious. I'm really excited to read about Cia, she seems like a great character. This looks like a great read. Thanks for the great review!