Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
The Testing has been pitched as a must read for Hunger Games fans and does feel very similar… even the cover shares the same simplicity and a similar focal concept sure to catch the eye of HG fans. But I assure you, The Testing is not The Hunger Games. Charbonneau introduces readers to an entirely new dystopian society that, at least initially, feels quite safe, but turns out to have a much darker, sinister side than our heroine ever imagined.
The novel follows Cia, a mechanically gifted girl who has been chosen to participate in The Testing, which is a means of determining which individuals from various parts of the United Commonwealth will be able to continue their education at university and eventually become an important leader. Only a very small number of individuals are selected to compete in The Testing and most individuals know they will never be chosen, even if they dream of the honor. Cia hopes to be selected, like her father once was, but knows her chances are slim. When she learns that she, and three others from her district have earned a spot in the competition, she’s amazed and incredibly proud – and is confused as to why her parents seem less than excited. Before she leaves for the capital, her father takes her aside and shares one of his deepest fears: that the testing is not the dream that it seems. He reveals to her that, while participants minds are wiped after they’ve completed the testing, he’s been left with terrifying nightmares that he fears may be lingering memories rather than products of an overactive imagination. With this knowledge now lodged in her mind, Cia leaves for The Testing, anxious and guarded. She soon learns that her father was correct to fear The Testing and that she’ll need to use everything in her to survive.
There is a romantic plot line within The Testing and, while it does contribute to the story, especially when considering the complications a romance can cause when an individual is unsure who can be trusted, it isn’t the main focus of the novel. That is to say, this is not a love story, though it does contain one. In this way, it is much like The Hunger Games.
Some may wonder how like Cia is to THG‘s Katniss. While both heroines are strong and capable of taking care of themselves, Cia, in my opinion, is definitely more motivated by emotion than Katniss and is more naturally trusting and sympathetic. It always seemed to me that Katniss wasn’t above manipulating or using others for her own gain when she knew they were emotionally attached to her (for example, Peeta); Cia, on the other hand, is more likely to be the one manipulated, not because she’s weak, but because she feels deeply for others. There was never any point where I felt she was weak or unintelligent, though she does have weaknesses.
For the most part, The Testing had really great pacing and twists. Although, it did take me perhaps 50 pages or so to be completely hooked. It is around this point that Cia has reached the capital and has begun the testing… and then all hell breaks loose!
Whether you’re a Hunger Games fan, a dystopian junkie, or just looking for a great, action packed read, The Testing is for you. Do not miss this book!
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2013, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780547959108, 336 pgs.