Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
3 out of 5 stars
I’m genuinely surprised I haven’t heard of this novel, especially considering my interest in dystopias. It’s been out since 2013 and I’ve known about it for barely a week. A coworker of mine is currently reading it, which is the only way I know of it now.
Reading the synopsis I figured I would like it because it sounded similar to the Hunger Games series and the Divergent series. Reading this series made me feel like I was reading a hybrid of the two, which I have yet to determine if it is in favor of the novel or a flaw.
In The Testing, life as we know it was destroyed completely by the Seven Stages War. What’s left is a barren wasteland, one that the survivors are determined to see survive and thrive. The new goverment, the United Commonwealth, ensures this by picking the best of the each graduating class and placing them in the Testing, weeding out those who are intellectual and mentally capable of becoming leaders.
Malencia Vale, known as Cia, is the youngest of her graduating class, and one of the brightest. She longs to be chosen for the Testing and to advance her knowledge at the University, just like her father did. To her initial delight, her and five other graduates from the Five Lakes Colony are chosen.
On the eve of her departure, her father gives an eerie and vague warning that the Testing is not what is seems. Left unsure if gaining entrance to the University is what she wants, she embarks on a physical, mental, and emotional journey to test her abilities.
Honestly, I’m not even sure where to begin. I don’t know what to pinpoint as a major setback or a genius moment. There are aspects that I really like about the novel; for instance, education being the goal. It made me extremely happy that what Cia wanted out of life was to achieve more and create better for her world. Her intelligence and her humanity are beautiful characteristics that set her apart from other characters.
But, let me tell you, these character traits get completely washed out by the fact that her hardships are not as difficult as they should be. The novel sets itself up so much as every decision, every answer is do-or-die that her struggles are completely anti-climatic. Cia did not invoke a sense of admiration as a leading character. Sure, her smarts are more than I could ever credit myself for, but everything worked too well together to really find it a great story.
I don’t mean “worked together too well” as “the plot flowed seamlessly together”; I mean “worked too well together” that Cia had too much for her to really ever fall. She came from a decent, loving community. Her intelligence was able to weed through almost every little thing she is against. She notices too much that it almost seems as if the other candidates are on a more brainwashed or unaware level. I understand that she does face trauma, but it doesn’t speak to me as a reader because there is something in the plot that is a safety net for her.
Also, one thing that REALLY irritated me is that she is YOUNGER than the other candidates. Her being younger seems like it would give her a sort of edge, maybe that she is more advanced than people give credit for. BUT IT’S NEVER EMPHASIZED IN THE NOVEL. ONLY IN PASSING COMMENTS. THE FACT THAT IT’S NEVER EMPHASIZED MAKES HER YOUTH COMPLETELY POINTLESS TO EVEN EXIST. THERE IS NO NEED FOR HER TO BE YOUNGER IF IT DOESN’T ADD AN EDGE. I promise you there isn’t. I sincerely promise you there is no reason for her to be younger. Actually, it would’ve made her being built up and never really falling a little easier to swallow.
This book is honestly a little bit on the annoying side to read until about a little over halfway through, AKA the Hunger Games part. In this section the romance that you cannot miss is actually believable and the plot is actually extremely interesting. In this section Cia questions a lot about the system and it is extremely thought provoking as far as questioning leadership and mistakes. I want to say reading would liven up a bit in this section if they encountered more candidates, but I don’t believe it would be a wise choice because it would compromise her development as far as the system goes.
I’m surprised and pleased with the revelation of Tomas. The ending to the novel makes me a bit more intrigued as to Cia’s decisions with her personal life and what kind of leader she will be.
While the story is a bit of a let down, The Testing is a fast, easy read that I would recommend to anyone who needs to fill their dystopia obsession. It isn’t the best out there, but I hope the last two books of the series make reading it worthwhile.
I’m like ninety percent sure this will become a movie. Eventually.
Giving up would be like admitting none of it mattered. And it needs to matter. It needs to be remembered.