BOOK REVIEW: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Book: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (The Testing #1)

Genre: YA, Dystopian

Sometime in the future, the Seven Stages War has left most of the continent that once made up the United States into a wasteland. For many years, the struggle to survive has surpassed the desire to be invested in politics and government, and as a result, the government heads of the new United Commonwealth have initiated a program that will allow only the finest, brightest minds to enter University and prepare to be the next generation of leaders. The result is The Testing. When Cia Vale is selected to participate, she doesn’t know what to expect, except for a warning her father has given her to trust no-one and remain alert, because The Testing is not what it seems. Not trusting people is easier said than done, especially when it comes to a boy named Tomas from her own colony. Cia is going to have to choose between honesty and safety, and hold out hope throughout that she has made the right choice.

The Testing is the first book in a series by Joelle Charbonneau. The other books include Independent Study, and Graduation Day–and I’ll have those reviews for you here in a few days as well. I usually write reviews as I read the books, and so don’t find it too difficult to not branch out and evaluate the series as a whole–at least not right away. Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on how you look at it–I’ve been on a real reading spree lately and haven’t quite kept my book review writing up to pace with my reading, and so I keep wanting to chime in with opinions on the other books in the series, or the impression I got from the series as a whole. I really enjoyed the whole series, and I will say that much before I get on down into this review.

Out of the series, this was not my favorite book. It was interesting, but I didn’t know where it was going exactly, and some parts of it seemed like just an enormous Hunger Games knock-off. I mean, metal boxes in the middle of nowhere? Find your way back to home base at any cost? That happened more towards the end of the book, I grant you, and up until that point I felt like the book was really original and took a different look at the whole idea of another Dystopian Society book… it just took me by surprise and kind of disappointed me that it ended up having so many similarities to The Hunger Games in the end.

Good things about the book: No teenage love triangles (I haven’t griped about teenage love triangles in a hot minute, but I’ll spare you just this once), some interesting puzzles, good family relationships, interesting characters. So there was lots to like about it. I thought the testing process itself was really cool. (Wow, my inner nerd/type A student really came out there…) I just love the idea of really difficult tests, where there’s more to it than immediately meets the eye. Obviously, not so cool with the whole idea that getting wrong answers could literally kill you, but if excitement is the name of the game that would certainly do it. Also, it might kill some of my enthusiasm for tests… but it makes a good story.

Annoying things about the book: Tomas. I do not know why he bugs me so much. Can’t explain it. He’s clearly supposed to be the cute guy that Cia is going to be romantically interested in at least in this book, but he gets on my nerves. I kept expecting him to betray her at every turn because he’s just TOO nice. For her part, she keeps going back and forth over whether or not to trust him, because her Dad warned her about the testing process –but ultimately she does trust him, and we’re stuck with him in the entire book. I really don’t understand what Cia sees in him. She’s all “I can’t trust anybody! This is so crazy! Nothing is what I’ve expected! Oh but Tomas is from my home town, and he’s super cute, and he’s never even looked at me before, but I’m going to trust him. I love him!” Give. Me. A. Break. I wonder if this is the real sign that I’m too old for YA fiction–when I complain about the romance drama of FICTIONAL teenagers…
Moving on…

All things considered, I did enjoy this book. I REALLY enjoyed the entire series, and y’all will hear about it more in a day or two. Stay tuned…

My rating for The Testing: 3 out of 5 stars (I liked it)

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