Book Review: The Testing

Abstract metal lightning background.I still remember the stress of taking the SAT, of getting up early on Saturday morning and spending the day at a cold, unforgiving desk surrounded by other stressed out teenagers. It felt like the rest of our lives depended on how we answered those questions. Sound familiar? Well, imagine that your life really did depend on how you answered.

Sixteen-year-old Cia Vale has dreamed of being one of the select few chosen for The Testing. Only the best students are given the chance to participate and prove they’re worthy of attending the University. Graduates of the University are the future leaders of the United Commonwealth. They’re the hope for an Earth ravaged by the Seven Stages War.

Cia’s dream comes true when she’s chosen for The Testing and she receives her identification bracelet. Surely the star and lightning symbols engraved on the metal represent the bright future ahead of her. But her bracelet soon feels like a shackle when Cia realizes The Testing is more than questions about history or science. It’s survival of the fittest.

Giving the wrong answer can have deadly consequences, and it’s not just exam questions Cia has to worry about. She has to be careful about which of the Testing candidates she trusts. Only twenty candidates will be accepted to the University, and the United Commonwealth only wants the strongest.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau is a quick-paced, engaging read. It feels enough like The Hunger Games that it will appeal to THG fans, but The Testing is definitely its own story. (Some reviewers think it’s a rip-off of The Hunger Games, but I disagree.)

If you wanted a Hunger Games comparison, I’d say that Cia won’t be forever etched in your memory the way Katniss is, but Cia is a warmer, more relatable character. Katniss is pragmatic while Cia views the world with more optimism, believing change is possible, and she relies on ingenuity and problem-solving rather than survival skills. She’s a good balance between compassionate and cautious. Cia wants to think the best of others but she’s not so gullible that she doesn’t question their behavior.

A short story prequel titled The Testing Guide is available, and the second book in The Testing Trilogy—Independent Study—is scheduled for release in January 2014.

©2013 Kim Vandel

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