Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing #1
Genre: YA, dystopian
Published on June 4, 2013
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books
Pages: 336
Read From: 4.20.14 - 4.26.14

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 and 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 a 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 
Surely, though, 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The cover is simple and shiny - ergo, very fitting for a dystopian novel. And yes, like most Readers nowadays, I have fallen for the allure of shiny covers. So, yes, I like The Testing's cover.

Characters: I have nothing against any of the characters at all - not even the one who ended up betraying Cia. Okay, maybe I did hate him a tiny bit. Anyway, all of the characters were quite likable and nice and helpful and just trying to do what they could to survive. And that's part of the crux of the matter: everyone is too nice, and there isn't much dimension to the characters. They're all underdeveloped - except, maybe, the guy who betrays Cia. You meet a new character, and you know that they're either going to be nice and helpful, or snotty and desperate - but not desperate enough to really do anything to anyone. Their snottiness is often born of desperation, too, and deep down they're a nice person. Cia was nice and intelligent and didn't believe in leaving anyone behind. I couldn't dislike her for her kindness, but I would have liked some depth. And no, I'm not saying a character has to be flawed to have depth. I just feel like she didn't rise to the potential she had as a character - no one did. Tomas is super nice; I always like a super nice guy character. He had a bit more depth than a few other characters, but he, too, felt underdeveloped - as did Michal and Malachi and Will - all of them. So when a character died, I didn't really care either way.

The Romance: There isn't a love triangle - not yet. I'm afraid that one might be created in the later books with Michal, Cia, and Tomas. I really hope that doesn't happen, because I admit that while Cia and Tomas are underdeveloped, I really like them together, and I don't want their relationship to be ruined by Michal - who I like as well, but not if he spoils things between them. The romance between Cia and Tomas is present, but not overbearing. They've known each other all their lives, and while Cia admits that Tomas' feelings are new to her, the Reader will get an immediate sense of romance between them, so the love doesn't feel as rushed as it could.

Plot: The surface of the world has been baked almost to complete uninhabitableness after a long and bitter war that devastated everyone. But mankind has carved an existence out of this harsh terrain, and the United Commonwealth of America is working hard to restore the world; growing plants that will survive in the contaminated soil, cleaning water sources. They are searching for the best and brightest teenagers to train at University, so they might become the future leaders of the United Commonwealth and lead their society into a new and better future. To become a potential leader, teens are selected to undertake The Testing - a grueling process that will weed out the weak and leave the strong. It is a great honor to be chosen. So when Cia and her childhood crush, Tomas, are two among four chosen candidates from their little colony, Cia is thrilled. Until her father tells her about the nightmares he has about his time at The Testing. He doesn't remember what happened, or if the nightmares are even real, but if they are, Cia is heading to her potential death. She can't trust anyone, but she has to, and it may cost her everything to do so. I have read reviews slamming this book for being a carbon copy of The Hunger Games; I have read reviews praising it to high heaven; but mostly, I've read reviews that said it was okay. I land somewhere in the middle of these three opposing views. It does have similarities to The Hunger Games, but not enough, in my opinion, to call it a carbon copy. It's not the greatest dystopian novel I have ever read in a million years. But it is slightly better than "okay." The plot is fast-paced, and when you prepare yourself to be disappointed at how benign The Testing is, people finally start dying. The latter part of The Testing is really what resembles The Hunger Games, but it lacked the intentional malevolence that the Games had. The scientists really do want their candidates to get through The Testing. And none of the other candidates are as malicious as like Cato and his group. The world building, like the characters, is underdeveloped. I know this will improve with future installments - I think - but as of Book #1, the world feels very underdeveloped. The Testing, at least, was explained, otherwise I would be fussing a lot.

Believability: The Author does a good job with survival skills. We don't get to learn much about the government in this installment, so I can't say much about it at this point.

Writing Style: First person, present tense. There was nothing special about the writing style. And I just have to throw this out there: does the Author have something against the letter "E"? It's like she took every normal name out there and deleted the "E" from it. I don't get this new fad to take normal names and spell them weird - even though they're pronounced the same way.

Content: None.

Conclusion: This isn't as brutal a book as it could have been. And yes, I did find that disappointing. But I wasn't surprised, because I figured out what direction the book was going to take pretty early on and accepted it. If you're looking for a quick, easy weekend dystopian read, The Testing is perfect. It has survivalist skills, interesting deaths, and likable characters, if not totally developed. But overall, this is a book that, while enjoyable, could have used some more work.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, seventeen-and-up, great for fans of dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and survival fiction. Will The Hunger Games fans eat it up? Probably, but it isn't as brutal.

Others in This Trilogy:
1)The Testing
2)Independent Study
3)Graduation Day

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