Monday, June 3, 2013

Dystopian Pick: The Testing

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
336 pages

Available June 4, 2013

Fans of The Hunger Games finally have a new trilogy to whet their appetites! The Testing is fierce, ferocious, fantastic, and fascinating. Sixteen year old Malencia (Cia) Vale is chosen with four others from her community to attend The Testing. Candidates are whisked away to the capitol and will undergo Testing to see who will advance to the University and their chance to have professional jobs.

Cia's father went through the Testing and University years before and warns her to trust no one. He also tells her about terrible dreams--nightmares,  really--he has about the Testing. Although he never sees the whole dream; he sees bits and pieces-- a white room, a scream, burned out buildings, glass in the street, an explosion.  After candidates survive the Testing, their memories are wiped, but Cia's father still remembers that terrible things happened when he went throught the Testing.

Now Cia is on edge; not only because of her father's warning but because she knows she's never see her home and family again. Once Testing and University are completed, the Commonwealth selects where to send its graduates and Cia knows her  chances of  getting back to the Five Lakes Colony  are slim. During the trip to the Testing center, Cia gets closer to Tomas, a boy from her school.

The candidates are put through a series of grueling tests, all the time while  being monitored. Cia and Tomas pass their first tests and the group moves to the last test. This one requires that they be dropped miles away from the University into the wilderness where dangers lurk--wild animals and worse. The teens are allowed to choose three items to help them survive and find their way back to the University. Tomas and Cia agree to work together to stay alive, but Cia remembers her father's warning about trusting  no one.

This is not The Hunger Games. I was prepared not to love this book. I thought it would be very familiar territory: teens fighting each other for dominance. Only the strong and smart survive. Been there, done that. The Testing has much, much more. The tests are both for knowledge--history of the wars, the new government, mathematical equations, poisonous plants, chemistry, physics, and basic knowledge of simple machines--and  physical; the physical  test not only requires endurance, but Cia and Tomas must problem solve and make split second decisions while trying to stay alive. Eat the wrong plant, drink tainted water, get a cut or wound that gets infected, and not only is your Test over, you die.

The Testing is a wild rollar coaster ride--exciting and enthralling unfolding at a breakneck pace with taut suspense and clever pace.  Cia is a strong-willed competitor, smart, sly, and stubborn. She is the girl readers will want as their partner in The Testing.

The Testing is hopeful where The Hunger Games was dark. Cia and Tomas can better their world. In The Hunger Games, the capitol controlled what people did, where they lived, if they ate or if they starved. In The Testing, the Commonwealth  is rebuilding. There is electricity and pure water. The Testing is done to find the best, the brightest and the strongest who will help rebuild their world. That said, who knows what evil lurks behind the smiling faces of the Commonwealth?

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. This is for fans of The Hunger Games, and may be the next "big thing." The Testing: Independent Study comes out January 2014 and book three, Graduation Day is due June 2014.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the arc from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

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