Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

June 6, 2013 2 - 2.5 Stars, Dystopia, Joelle Charbonneau, Post-Apocalyptic 4 ★★

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing # 1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on June 4, 2013
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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.
The title is certainly descriptive.  A big chunk of the book is all about test-taking.  If this sounds compelling to you, then the first third of the book will be right up your alley.  If not, you will likely find that it dragged, as I did.  I could easily see some people electing to not finish this book, but I pushed on.  Fortunately, the action picked up, but there were numerous other problems with the book that make it difficult to recommend.

We’re told that much of the planet was destroyed in a global war, but I had to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic story, because it just didn’t feel that way.  Meager details of the war were relayed in the simplest way possible – via a couple of questions on the test that Cia must pass in order to be selected as a future leader.  In fact, we are not given much more information on what brought the world to this point beyond the sentence in the synopsis above.  A few American cities were bombed, we retaliated, and…the end.  We’re told the origin of the original bombs was unknown, which seems incredibly unrealistic.  This is a huge omission in a book that touts itself as post-apocalyptic.  If we don’t understand what happened, how can we accept the dystopian society that formed as a result?

This brings us to the Testing itself.  Maybe the future books in the series will pull a swticheroo and reveal an ulterior motive for the Testing, but while reading this one, I kept thinking: Is this extreme testing really the best way to suss out leaders?  Isn’t real world experience a better measure of success?  If the people selected for Testing are so phenomenal, and the Commonwealth is so in need of leadership, what is the sense of putting these people through this Testing that may kill them?  It all felt very contrived.

I have not yet mentioned the worst part of the story: the romance between Cia and Tomas.  It was as believable as it was necessary to the story, which is to say…not very.  These two childhood chums start spouting I love you’s and making out as bullets and arrows fly past them on the Testing grounds, while Cia’s “heart swells with love.”  Really?  It might have been more believable if she and Tomas were in love before the Testing, but it probably would have been better if they were not in love at all.

Note – I received an ARC from the publisher with a request for an honest review.

Review posted at Goodreads.


4 Responses to “Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau”

  1. Nikki R

    Meh. I’m glad I DNF’d this one. As much as I couldn’t connect emotionally to Cia, I definitely would not have been able to put up with her falling in love with Tomas so quickly. ‘Cause I definitely didn’t feel any kind of chemistry in the first 100 pages at all. O_o


    wow, there are so many mixed reviews for this one! I was all for getting it a moment ago, lol…reassessing…maybe a library read.

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