Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
There is a hum of a motor and a large white screen unfurls above the stage. A black heart symbol flashes. You can hear people murmur as the symbol registers. Their time has come. I see Nicolette tromp up the aisle and disappear out the door with the twenty or so members of her group. Several minutes pass. A few people whisper. I hold my breath, waiting for the next group to be called.
A triangle. Malachi and Ryme.
I spot Malachi’s small, slight body rise from a seat to our far left. His mouth is pursed in concentration or fear as he walks up the aisle. I give him a thumbs-up, but his eyes are plastered on the back of the girl in front of him and he doesn’t notice.
There are fewer whispers. More fidgeting as we wait. My heart keeps pace with the seconds ticking by. The screen flickers. Another symbol.
Tomas sucks in air, and I remember. Ours. Though I am certain he will outdistance all of us on the tests, I am so glad he is coming with me. He is a touchstone from home. I will do better knowing he is near.
We rise and join the others in our group. I can’t help but notice that our group is much smaller than the others. Once we are in the hallway, I count. Ten. Half the size. Is this good or bad? The two Testing officials in their red and purple do not allow me the time to worry further. The blonde asks us to follow her. She heads down the hallway to the left and we follow. A dark-haired man brings up the rear.
The woman at the door instructs us to step inside and take a seat at one of the desks. The door is narrow. Tomas goes first. I enter next. Two steps inside and I stop walking. My feet are planted to the floor as bile climbs up my throat.
I know this room.
This is the Testing room from my father’s nightmares.
On graduation day, everyone is celebrating, but all sixteen-year-old Malencia (Cia) Vale is hoping for is to be chosen for The Testing, a program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders and blaze the way for the revitalization of the world after the war. No one from the Five Lakes Colony has been chosen in years, yet FOUR are chosen from Cia’s class, including her. When her father shares his nightmares of his Testing, and the insidious threats of treason all around her, Cia has no choice but to head to Tosu City and whatever awaits her- including her possible death. And who can she trust when everyone wants the same thing: to survive The Testing and make it to University?
After nuclear war obliterates much of the planet and the earth fights back by unleashing meteorological terrors that almost destroy what is left of the human race, the United Commonwealth is formed. Based in Tosu City (what was once Wichita, Kansas), the government takes the best and brightest of the graduating classes to be entered into The Testing- a four part series of mental, physical, and psychological exams to determine who can handle the rigors of leadership in the new world. When Cia is chosen for The Testing, her father shares his own nightmare experience of his Testing: colony friends gone missing, people dying, and blanks where memories should be. However, to refuse to undergo The Testing is treason, and death. Joined by three other members of her colony, Cia embarks on a journey that pushes everyone to their breaking point and beyond- where a mistake or even trusting the wrong person means death, and everyone is fighting for survival. Wonderful twists and turns throughout the book keep readers on their toes, and the final twist sets up for the next book (Independent Study) extremely well. Cia is a strong and vibrant heroine, and will definitely find fans with those who love Katniss (Hunger Games), Tris (Divergent), or Tally (Uglies). The situations are extremely violent, so I would hesitate giving it to younger readers who may not be ready for some scenes, even though I have no qualms about putting it in a young adult collection. 4.25 out of 5 stars. Goodreads has The Testing listed as 4.00 stars as of Tuesday, May 14, 2013.
OMG, I loved this book! I could not put it down!!! I am a huge lover of dystopias, so that should give you a clue, but I was immediately pulled into Cia’s world. It reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Battle Royale (testing, evaluation, and fighting to the death with teenagers to find the victors while the adults watch) with hints of Divergent (grouping by abilities/test scores/aptitudes) and Uglies (the complete separation from your past if you’re accepted to University, and the HUGE twist at the end that I am NOT going to spoil).
It definitely had enough world building for me, and Karen loves me enough to grab a copy of Independent Study (the second book) during the Texas Library Association Annual Convention, which explains the world even more, and that makes me a happy reader- I am geek enough that I need to know HOW the world broke in my dystopias, it’s not enough for me to know THAT it broke, I’m a toddler always asking WHY?!?!?!?!
Definitely one to keep around, and keep an eye on. With movie studios picking up YA dystopias like crazy to make into movies and TV shows, I can’t help but wonder if this one will get looked at as well.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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