I received a free review copy of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau through Netgalley, and here are my thoughts.
The Testing tells the story of Cia Vale from a small village struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic future. The government invites Cia to undergo testing for admittance to the University, an opportunity which could change her life and that of her community. It soon becomes apparent that this is not an invitation Cia can refuse, and that she will become involved in a struggle for her very survival.
It is very difficult to read this book without comparing it to Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Many of the same themes are there: dystopian society struggling after a cataclysmic war; young teens forced by an all-powerful government to compete to the death in a competition for a marvelous prize; heroine torn between two loves; shadowy rebel forces attempting to overthrow the government.
What I didn’t like
I felt at times this borrowed too heavily from The Hunger Games. The premise is very similar, and many of the same themes are explored.
Again, comparing The Testing to The Hunger Games, I felt the setup was lacking somewhat. In The Hunger Games, the government’s motivation for the Games is crystal clear; it’s a method of control. I struggle to see where Charbonneau is going in her setup. It is made clear that the post apocalyptic society is struggling to maintain population levels, so it seems very strange that the government would choose to cull a significant number of young people who could otherwise have made a positive contribution to the society. However, as this is just the first novel in the series I’m prepared to give the author a pass on this, on the understanding that this will be explained more fully in future books.
On the other hand, I felt the slow breadcrumbs trail hinting at the danger of the Testing was very well done.
What I liked
I found the heroine Cia to be very well written and engaging. Although she is a teenager, she has a good head on her shoulders and acts sensibly and thoughtfully in the situations in which she finds herself. She does have a tendency to trust where she should perhaps be more wary, but her thought processes are well described, so you can see her trusting as a risk she did consider. This makes her a much more engaging heroine than say Twilight’s Bella.
The love triangle was also very subtly and well written. Clearly, in this novel, the heroine’s first priority is survival, but enough groundwork was laid that this will become an interesting theme for future books. The whole question of who should she trust will be fun to explore.
The setup for book two is very intriguing. Cia will be in a very different situation, and I look forward to seeing how she handles it. It will also move it well away from Hunger Games territory, which can only be to the good.
If you enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent it would certainly be worth your while picking up The Testing.
I gave The Testing four stars out of five.