Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

After the Seven Stages War, humanity is hanging on by a thread, the population of billions drastically reduced and each settlement of people faces challenges from pollution, mutations, and a lack of resources.  Most people spend their whole lives in their settlements, some are happy with their lot in life while others dream of the Testing and entering University.  The Testing was a dream for Cia Vale, but she never dreamed she would be chosen - but for the first time in years people from her settlement have been chosen for the Testing, an honour that is treason to deny. 

Cia feels nervous about leaving, and softly spoken secrets from her father do little to ease her worries.  Cia learns about his nightmares, the memories that may or not be real after his memories were wiped after his own Testing - and his last words are to trust no one.  Thrust into a world of fierce competition where everyone seems to be in it for themselves, Cia tries to hold onto who she really is and clings to the hope that things are not as they appear.  As the other candidates make decisions with deadly, even fatal, consequences Cia must find the courage to survive the tests she is facing - but also the Testing itself.

The Testing is a gripping novel set in a dystopian future in the remains of the United States, where young people face deadly challenges to gain the prize of a coveted University position.  That may sound vaguely familiar, another Hunger games wannabe with much pomp and ceremony, a familiar story of triumph over adversity and blah blah blah - but The Testing is one of the best dystopian novels, a quietly creepy and disquieting novel that leaves you feeling like you have touched a truly distasteful world where the people in power can do anything they want and it is all you can do to hold onto your humanity - and even if you hang on to it you still may not really be a "winner".

Describing too much about the story and characters will reduce the impact of the story and the little twists and surprises Charbonneu has built into this absorbing (and more than a little sickening) dystopian future.  I can see the strong parallels between the Hunger games and The Testing, but it is not a carbon copy nor a pale imitation.  Like the Hunger games this will appeal to a wide range of audiences, and the sequel looks to be a promising follow up to this first book in the series.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to seeing how things develop for Cia and the other survivors of The Testing - and how things pan out for the people they have left behind.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Hunger games by Suzanne Collins
  • Eve by Anna Carey
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Dualed by Elsie Chapman
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • XVI by Julia Karr

Reviewed by Brilla

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