Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … the Testing

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Finished Reading … the Testing

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau
To be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
on June 2, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.

Find out more on the book's website.

Watch the trailer here. 

Download the free prequel here.




Summary (from Goodreads:) 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.

My take:  I'm suffering from a full-blown case of dystopian fatigue. As a result, I approach new books in this genre with the hope that they will offer up some kind of a fresh spin on things.  The Testing didn't meet that test for me. Still, if you feel the way about dystopian fiction that I feel about contemporary/realistic YA -- namely, that you're a tireless and devoted reader of the genre -- I think you'll enjoy this book. 

The Testing opens with Cia, the main character, getting all dressed up for a big ceremony. All the residents of her colony are gathering in the town square to find out which of Cia's classmates will be chosen for the Testing, a chance to compete to attend their country's University.

Cia wasn't the kind of character who had me rooting for her. To me, she came off as calm and detached. I tend to connect more with characters who show either greater vulnerability or more of an snarky edge. Or both. Cia wasn't a bad narrator, she just struck me as bland.

Of course, Cia is chosen to be tested. She and three of her classmates are taken to Tosu City to undergo a series of tests. They're assigned a mentor. They meet their competitors. Then -- and I have to admire the gutsiness of this storytelling move -- for the first round of competition they actually take tests. They sit at desks and take tests with paper with pencils. (For teen readers who are in full exam panic mode, this scenario might actually elicit a cold sweat.)  Fortunately, in subsequent rounds, the candidates get to do other stuff. Like test plants and soil. And then - finally - get down to the real-world leadership and decision-making tests.When the testing moves into its final stages, the book shifts to survival in the wilderness sort of stuff. Just like in the Hunger Games, Cia will have to battle injury and the elements and decide which of her competitors she can trust. This was definitely the strongest part of the book.

As in other dystopian books which feature plots that put groups of kids in deadly competition with one another, that part of the premise didn't entirely hold together for me. In the Hunger Games, the Reaping served as a cruel means by which the government punishes and controls its citizens. In this book, it didn't really add up. Yes, I understand that the United Commonwealth wants their best and the brightest to attend the university, but what is the logic behind such callous disregard for the almost-best-and-brightest, many of whom seem to end up dead?

Will you be surprised if I tell you there are two guys Cia finds herself drawn to, one of whom may not be trustworthy? However, as Cia learns in the beginning of the book, her memory will be erased if she survives the testing, so even if she figures out which guy she likes, she's not going to remember.

Here's a little test for you to take: are you dying for new dystopian books to read? Does the idea of a group of kids pitted against one another still makes your heart beat a little faster? Then you should definitely put The Testing on your to-read list.

How are you feeling about dystopian fiction? Are you still loving it? 

43 comments:

  1. I'm definitely suffering from dystopian fatigue. This one showed up in my inbox, and I passed because with everything else I have to read, another one in a tired genre wasn't a priority. And just from reading the first paragraph of your review, I know it's a good thing I did. *sigh*

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    1. I do think there will be readers out there who will love this. For me, it was just a little too reminiscent of Hunger Games/Divergent to get me on board.

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  2. I would not be surprised to find out there are two guys drawn to Cia :) I'm interested to find out which side I'll fall on as dystopia isn't my genre but I do love tests and competing kids (a little Hunger Games and maybe even Ender's Game).

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    1. What? A love triangle?
      If you love the testing concept, then definitely give it a try!

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    2. Just finished reading this (review going up Saturday) and I almost feel like there are three guys interested in Cia (Tomas, Will, and Brick, also maybe?)

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  3. I'm glad I chose to pass on this one. This isn't the first review I've read comparing The Testing to The Hunger Games. And you're right - it doesn't make any sense to kill off the best and the brightest in their country. Even if the other kids don't pass, they were good enough to qualify and I'm sure they could be of use. I don't know, the plot kind of sounds like Swiss cheese.

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    1. It does have some similarities. But for people who are looking for books like that to read, this is a perfect fit.

      And yeah, killing off the "almost best" doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I've seen this come up in other dystopian books and I don't get it. It's a way to raise the stakes, but it's also illogical. Maybe it will be explained in the next book.

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  4. Dystopian fatigue? I have the dystopian flu. This one actually sounds good, I've just read so many other books like it.

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    1. Hmmm ...we need to compare symptoms. Feeling exhausted by mention of "selection" ceremonies? Of vaguely sinister governments? Contests to winnow down the best of the best?

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  5. Dude, I'm totally having dystopian burnout, but I was hoping that maybe this one would rock!! I have not had good luck with dystopian novels this year so far. Great review, I suppose I should read this before it expires...

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    1. I hope you like it. I didn't think it was a bad book, it just seemed like a book I'd already read.
      But I do think there are a lot of dystopian fans who will love it.

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  6. Hmm. I have this one too, but after reading your review I think I'll put it to the bottom of my list. I don't like the fighting until death thing really at all and it only works in the Hunger Games and Divergent because of the back story and the government's role. In this, I would agree with you that it just doesn't make sense to destroy all your brightest kids, except for the one who survives. Plus, I can't read death and destruction all the time. Thanks, Jen! :)

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    1. The book is not super-gloomy. But I've seen a bunch of dystopian YA books lately that take the Hunger Games "deadly competition" premise and then translate it to a context where it doesn't entirely make sense.

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  7. Aw sorry that it didn't bring the new spin that you wanted and that you couldn't root for Cia like you wanted

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    1. Well, you can't win them all. I'm picky about dystopians -- I admit it :)

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  8. I downloaded this but I think I will skip it now, I like a good dystopian but this sounds a bit cliche. I can't believe they actually sit down and take a test lol

    Thanks for the helpful review!

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    1. Well, try out the first few chapters and see what you think!

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  9. Well I'm not sick of dystopian yet maybe because I haven't read a Lot of it so I might like this one more but the whole girl is attracted to 2 guys gets kind of old

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    1. The love triangle isn't overemphasized so don't let that dissuade you!

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  10. Definitely feeling the dystopian fatigue. I've been really into sci-fi I think so far this year. It's not too different from dystopian I realize, but still. Wondering how I'll about this one now. :(

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    1. Same! To me, scifi feels fresh and new, but if you read a lot of scifi, maybe you're like, "not clones again!" :)

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  11. Dystopian is one of those genres that I really need to space the books out. Even when he characters are compelling the stories feel similar to me.

    There are only so many ways you can tell a dystopian tale (kind of like the zombie genre). They have minor variations but it's all kind of the same.

    Even if I thought this looked interesting you lost me at "two boys" lol

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    1. True. A lot of genres have a standard structure: in romance, a couple meets, has instant like or dislike, grows closer, then circumstances threaten to tear them apart. I guess dystopians also have the "struggle against the evil government" aspect which is hard to make fresh.

      I must admit to finding the love triangle plus amnesia (the memory wipe) very funny! Though I found the whole love + amnesia depressing in that Drew Barrymore movie. 50 First Dates?

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    2. Great point. I guess with romance I just expect to be swept away and not much more so it doesn't bother me as much. Although I'm getting sick of some of those story lines too.

      Maybe it's because dystopian can be so bleak? The faction thing is getting tiring, although there are several books that have done it very well.

      I thought that was depressing too lol And in that movie with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams...The Vow I think. Total bummer.

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  12. Yeah.... I wasn't really excited about this before and passed up the chance to review it and it sounds like I probably made the right choice. I'm definitely burnt out on dystopian and have mostly been picking those up in series I'm already attached to. Thanks for the great review!

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    1. Something made me decide to give it a try. I'm not sorry I did, but I'm waiting for someone to really shake up the dystopian genre and do something new.

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  13. I'm usually pretty satisfied with most dystopians, as long as the story is well told and I like the characters. I don't find myself getting tired out by them, but I've been really hesitant to start The Testing. I read the short free prequel (which was really more of a teaser with a little bit of background info thrown in) and it seemed like the standard dystopian, but I found myself cautious of Cia. Basically, whether I like the book or not will all fall on her shoulders, so you thinking she comes off a bit bland is unfortunate. But I suppose I'll give it a try and see how I feel. Great review!!

    Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction

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    1. Definitely try it. Then come back and link up your review!

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  14. I've actually read a ton of great dystopians lately! LOL But this so doesn't sound good at all to be honest. Like I want a big book about my life long stress and fear! This sounds like the SATs from hell.

    Total LOL @ "Will you be surprised if I tell you there are two guys Cia finds herself drawn to, one of whom may not be trustworthy?"

    I'll pass on some crazy ridiculous test that you end up having your memory erased after anyway.

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  15. I don't think I'm tired of Dystopians, since I still pick them up and end up liking them. I love the whole testing part, but the love-triangle and the meh MC make me less tempted to read it :)

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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  16. I got pre-approved to read this one on NG but it just didn't thrill me at all so I declined (which kinda sucks because I don't get auto approved very often) Looks like I might have been right in my choice. I suffer from dystopian/ post apocalyptic fatigue as well. But I will say that I did enjoy the last one I read that fell into that category: Reboot. Have you checked that one out yet, Jen?

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  17. I have also been attempting a break from dystopians so that I can enjoy them (without comparison) again. I'm holding off for Veronica Roth's Allegiant! :)

    Sabrina @iheartyafiction

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    1. I did feel that trilogy brought something new to the table: the factions. And Tris was a scrappy kind of main character that I could really root for.

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  18. I still love dystopian, I didn't read this one though, my tbr is just too long! shame you didn't enjoy it :(

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  19. Oh no! I had high hopes for this one. I've seen a couple other people echo your feelings that this just isn't a strong read, especially if you have dystopian fatigue (which I do). The testing does sound like a poor man's Reaping, and slightly illogical as well. I'll probably still give my ARC a read out of curiosity, but at the first whiff of DNF feelings, I"ll succumb. :-) Thanks for your honesty!

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  20. I am anxious to read this as I feel about dystopians the way you do for contemps. Not excited about the possible love triangle though..eek gads!

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    1. The love triangle isn't a huge part of the story, so definitely give this a try!

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  21. Yikes, I don't think this book is for me! Not only the idea of two guys, but it sounds too much like The Hunger Games, and as you said, there are so many dystopians out there that we really aren't looking for similar stories to that one any more.

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