Title: The Testing [The Testing 1]
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Description/Synopsis: 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.
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
I absolutely loved this book. I only got the book earlier today, and having nothing better to do, gave the prequel a read. Well, the prequel was enough to perk up my interests, and so without further ado, I picked up The Testing. Several hours later I emerged. Somehow I managed to ignore my entire family during my reading and turned down going to a movie. Do I remember this? No, but I've been told it happened. I was so completely absorbed in the story that I haven't moved in hours.
I could not put this book down! The characters were all wonderfully interesting (and some of them devious and mean D:), the writing was clear - I was hooked from the start. I think my favorite part about this book though, was the mystery it presented. There was a definite and unique world-building and history to this story. It was dystopian, and yes, like all dystopians, mankind had screwed over the world, and now we were paying the consequences.
Unlike most dystopians though, humanity had put into use some very practical views of the world and about community and the greater good. Given a choice, this is probably the dystopian I'd be okay living in. Even with the mutated humans and poisoned rivers. Yes, there was a sense of foulness attached to the government and how it worked with the people - just like you'd expect, but I never felt that the system was wholly evil like I'd expected.
Sure, things were done in the testing that were obviously morally questionable or just plain wrong - but I could see the point of view of the people involved. Even though their actions seemed evil, it wasn't hard to stretch my imagination around the fact that they were just doing what they could to ensure their future. It was nice to find such a solid platform for the fictional workings of this world.
I have to say Cia was definitely one of my favorite characters. It was easy to see that the author had spent a good amount of time fleshing out the characters - they were all unique in their interactions within the story, but Cia was something special. All the time in books we are told that a character is "clever" or "really smart" but that doesn't always translate in their actions. In this case, I believed them. Cia WAS clever. She always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else - and not in a formulated scripted way. Her brain just worked a little faster than most, and she stopped to consider things before she rushed headlong into situations. She also came with an innate humility that made it hard to feel threatened by her obvious intelligence. Her interactions with the other characters in the story and the situations she was forced into really made me appreciate her as a character. If I had to pick a leader for my dystopian world, it'd definitely be her.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was engaging, well-written, the characters were interesting and unique. The plot was intriguing, thought provoking, and kept my attention from the very beginning. From here on out I'll definitely be stalking the series and following up on the author in the future.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA fiction and dystopian post-apocalyptic stories. This was full of adventure, mystery, romance, and true shining moments of humanity. You will regret it if you pass up this book. Book is safe for younger teens (12+), but still really enjoyable for adult readers as well.