HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0547959108
Synopsis: The Seven Stages War has ravaged much of the world and its resources, and it is up to the next generations to find ways to live in a hostile land. On her graduation day, sixteen-year-old Malencia (Cia) Vale hopes to be chosen for The Testing, an elite competition that will guarantee her entrance into University. When she is chosen, she is excited but scared, especially after her father warns her not to trust anyone on the eve of her departure. Armed with a few personal belongings and the broken nightmares of her father’s own Testing experiences, Cia travels from her home in the Five Lakes Colony to the capital of Tosu City and into a challenge that will test her both mentally and physically.
Why I picked it up: I had a friend that read it and liked it. Plus, I had to see for myself how much of a Hunger Games rip-off it actually was.
Why I finished it: I won’t deny that there is a plethora of similarities between The Testing and The Hunger Games – young woman is chosen for a ‘competition’ and travels to the capital city with a friend from home and is entrenched in a mental and physical battle to survive with other candidates to earn a top spot in an elite class of ‘warriors’ – but despite these similarities with its dystopian cousins, Charbonneau has given the reader a story about how our personal successes define us. Right off the bat, Cia has a lot to live up to because her father was a Testing candidate himself, though he doesn’t remember much of the experience. When he finally divulges to Cia the nature of his memories, the fragmented nightmares that haunt him when he closes his eyes, she begins to see The Testing in a different light. She struggles with whether she will take her father’s advice, especially when her childhood friend Tomas seems to have taken an interest in her. She struggles with whether or not she can stand the pressure of The Testing, especially when candidates start to drop out one by one. Charbonneau’s setting comes off as a hybrid of Collins’s, Roth’s and Lowry’s (The Giver) dystopian worlds, but the way she has described the end of the world is much more comprehensive, tying in elements that are currently affecting us: earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, bombings, and other man-made and natural disasters that threaten our way of life. Charbonneau presents the reader with a world that is not as cut and dry as it originally seems; there is always something else hiding under the surface, some other ulterior motive that drives our protagonist to keep going to discover what could be behind the seemingly happy faces of the antagonists. It is just as engrossing, exciting, and nail-biting as The Hunger Games, but the twist at the conclusion presents a much darker, much more sinister ending that makes the reader realize just how wicked the world can be.
Other related materials: Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2) by Joelle Charbonneau; Graduation Day (The Testing, Book 3) by Joelle Charbonneau; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; Divergent by Veronica Roth; Insurgent by Veronica Roth; Allegiant by Veronica Roth; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Maze Runner books by James Dashner; Matched books by Allie Condie; Legend books by Marie Lu; The Young Elites by Marie Lu; In the After by Demitria Lunetta; In the End by Demitria Lunetta; The Razorland Trilogy by Ann Aguirre; The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman