Monday, June 10, 2013

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau | Book Review

TITLE: The Testing
AUTHOR: Joelle Charbonneau
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/June 4, 2013
SERIES: Yes, The first in a series
SOURCE: For Review from Publisher via Netgalley

Goodreads / Author's Website

As you all know by now, I'm not a big fan of of anything other than contemporaries as a super general rule. I tend to get stuck in one genre and stick to it for ages. So even though there's been a huge dystopian trend recently I haven't been on board. In fact, I've pretty much avoided most books that describe themselves as dystopian. However, when I saw The Testing on NetGalley I figured why not, it seemed like a pretty pain free way to test out the genre and you know what, I kind of liked it. I don't know if it's because it's the first of the genre that I've read, but I found The Testing to be thoroughly gripping in a turn the page, can't put it down at 2am kind of way.

Basically The Testing's world is a standard dystopia. The earth was destroyed first by wars and then by natural disasters and while the majority of the human population was wiped out or mutated beyond recognition, enough people survived to try to create a new society. The leaders at the forefront of turning a burned out North American into a thriving society once again believe that the brightest youths need to be tested to ensure they're strong enough to lead in the future, using whatever needs necessary. It's a huge honour to be chosen for the testing, but as Cia, our protagonist, soon learns, there is much more to this test than pen and paper as kids are pitted against each other and the government to prove they're strong enough to survive.

So I haven't read The Hunger Games because I've apparently been living under a rock, but I did see the movie last summer and I have to say The Testing has some strong Hunger Games undertones. Like basically a bunch of kids are sacrificed on behalf of the state in this dystopian universe. This might be a let down for some readers, but I can't speak too much to these similarities as I'm hesitant to use a movie as a literary reference and I mean maybe this is just a trope that's common to the genre. Maybe downside, super Hunger Games-esque, upside as a new reader to the genre it didn't bother me at all? That's all I'll say on that subject.

The plot itself, super compelling. I was pretty much sucked in from the beginning since you know from the get go that Cia's going to be a testing candidate. I wanted to know how she would react to these tests, if she would follow her father's advice of trusting no one. It's a fast paced story that will keep you turning the pages, rooting for the characters the whole time. It's not just Cia that I was rooting for (although she's an easy one to root for), but all the candidates because wow are the penalties for failure severe. Namely, death.

Cia herself is super likeable. She's fairly trusting, loves her family and is trying to do the right thing throughout the testing. She's fighting to survive, but at the same time she wants to do the right thing and maintain her values despite the extraordinary circumstances. She makes difficult decisions based on her survival instincts and overall, pretty bad ass.

The downside of this novel for me was their seemed to be a lack of explanation/world building. Like, WHY did the world turn on itself and WHY did this cause a ton of natural disasters? Also, how long has this test been around and did citizens at one point know about its methods? Basically I just have a ton of questions left about this world. I also have a ton of questions about the characters because there's not a ton of character building between the action. We do get to see some of their actions, intents, and motivations, but I think more needs to be known. Of course, the sequel is coming out this fall so I'm hoping a lot of my questions are answered then. And it makes sense we don't know a ton about the characters because this is a world in which Cia's been told to trust nobody and hasn't learned TOO much about her competitors.

I'm definitely going to pick up the sequel to this one because the ending just left me with too many questions. It was the perfect page turning read for the beginning of summer and a nice break from the contemporary romances I normally read. I don't know if I would recommend this to fans of dystopians, but again, that's just because I don't know much about the genre itself. I would however, recommend it to anybody who enjoys an action packed, page turning read.

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