The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review copy received at SIBA
Malencia Vale is days away from her high school graduation, and is desperately hoping to be selected for The Testing at graduation day. The Testing accepts only the most intelligent and talented students to compete in a several-weeks long program to determine who among them will be selected to become future leaders of Cia’s society, the United Commonwealth. To her great relief, Cia is chosen for The Testing, and heads off to Tosu City. As her father participated in The Testing years ago, she brings his words of advice with her to what she hopes will be an exciting, although scary, process. What Cia finds is nothing like what she expected, as she embarks on the most dangerous and important journey of her entire life.
I didn’t pay too much attention to this title when it was featured at SIBA, mostly because I hadn’t heard of the author and, let’s face it, there are about a million YA dystopias these days competing for my attention. But I did see Charbonneau on a panel that week, and she was funny and bright and even sang opera for us! I later learned that she’s made a name for herself writing cozy mysteries (not my thing) but I’d heard from other bloggers that her writing is really quite good. So I figured, what the heck, and picked up The Testing just before its release date this week.
And holy shit! This book shocked me. It shocked me with how compelling, how completely unputdownable, how well-written, and how GOOD it was. I fell into the story immediately and felt that I knew Cia incredibly well after just a few chapters. The events that took place during The Testing were shocking, yes, but in just the right way – still almost believable.
This book reminded me a LOT of The Hunger Games, and I think a lot of people will have that reaction to it, which can be a great thing. But it might be seen as a negative, too, so let me tell you that I found the concept of this book to be much more believable than that of Hunger Games. Basically the premise is this: humans caused war and destruction for many years, mostly because the world leaders weren’t strong enough, or smart enough, or creative enough to prevent and/or stop it. So in this new world, the world leaders will be carefully selected and tested in the hopes of avoiding all that war and destruction that plagued the generations of the past. To me, this makes a lot of sense and I can actually see where there is some truth to it.
So, let me give you a quick run-down of why I loved The Testing. Creative concept? Check. Great characters? Check. Fast-paced, incredibly compelling story? Check. PERFECT ending that left me begging for the next book? Check. Basically, this was almost a perfect book to me and one that I won’t stop recommending. I’m super excited for this series and very hopeful that it will continue in its greatness or even (dare I say) get better. I would call this one a must-read.