Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genre: YA, Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic, Space Opera
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (HMH – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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.
☆: 3/5 stars – a good solid debut for Charbonneau, but not something totally original within the dystopian genre.
Review: Okay, I know we’ve all heard this one before. Kids fighting to survive, people in their government that put them there, in a barren landscape after an epic war (or in this case, seven). While I won’t deny that “The Testing” sounds like so many of the dystopian books coming out of YA within the last few years, it was well-written, and kind of how with a trainwreck where you can’t look and you can’t look away, the actual “Testing” part of it (which takes up most of the book) was fascinating to decipher. Since this is the first in a trilogy, I’m not yet sure if I’ll be continuing my journey with Cia and co., but if you’re looking for something to read in more or less one sitting or looking to fill a rainy afternoon, this is one dystopian that delivers. I do think that it’ll be good for those just getting their feet wet into the dystopian YA pond, if nothing else.
What needed the most work: the character building. While easy enough to figure out everyone’s motives, everyone (including Cia) felt a little too easy, and a little too simple. All of the characters in the main cast didn’t feel nearly as complex enough as one would expect in a dystopian book like this. The audience gets how Cia thinks, and how we can see her in the future as a good leader, but I wanted to see a little more anguish, a little more troubledness to her. The torture your darlings clause here wasn’t invoked nearly enough as it needed to be, and that was disappointing. Compared to the rest, however, Cia seems positively 3D – Tomas, sadly, felt very 1D, as did the rest.
The romance – not quite insta-love, but it was very uncomfortably close to it. There was also a not-quite-love triangle towards the end with Will – and I’m still scratching my head as to that one, in terms of whether or not it was a love triangle at all. It was very vaguely defined, and I’m hoping by pub day that part, at least, will get one more good, clean edit to straighten things out.
What Charbonneau does best: worldbuilding and sensory language/imagery. The world itself in terms of backstory really badly needed a little more than what they gave us (small one-sentence infodumps given to us during the Testing sequences), but again, since is the first in a trilogy, I can see why she didn’t completely tip her hand there. What we got was adequate enough to figure out that something is very wrong in Cia’s world, and she hasn’t really been able to see it until now. Which was good. A good motivation to propel her through the Testing arc into the final phases of the book. The sensory language was wonderful, and I think that’s where Charbonneau’s singular talent shines the most. The desolate parts of the trek back to Tosu City were really stark and drastic, and the lush parts were lovely.
Final verdict? If you’re a veteran of the genre, this may not be the book for you. However, if you’re just getting your feet wet in the genre pond, or if you’re looking for a book to try for a rainy afternoon, I’d definitely recommend “The Testing”. I’m still torn as to whether I’ll be reading book 2, but I probably will be if just to figure out what’s really going on with the United Commonwealth. “The Testing” is out June 4, 2013 from HMH in North America, so definitely check it out when you get the chance!