Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (The Testing #1)


Every year, the United Commonwealth invites top graduates from each colony to participate in The Testing. Successful candidates will go on to the University and help the government work to rebuild our war-stricken world. This process is not optional.

Disclaimer: The United Commonwealth is not responsible for candidates' psychological or physical heath during The Testing.

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 Review: 
I hate it when a book publisher declares that fans of a classic book or series will love this, as usually I'm left feeling disappointed after reading it. The blurb indicates that this book might interest fans of The Hunger Games and for once, the publisher was right! There were elements to this book that had a Hunger Games vibe but at the same time, it was different enough to enjoy as a book in its own right-and I really enjoyed it!

Cia is a great heroine. She is hard working, smart, kind and the kind of girl that you would want as a best friend. She has wanted to be chosen for the Trials for so long, as successful candidates then get University places, the best jobs and a happy life. After being chosen, Cia is alarmed when her father tells her that his memory of the Trials were wiped but that he suffers frequent frightening nightmares about the deaths of fellow students he was with and fears for his daughter's safety. He warns her to look out for herself and trust nobody, keep his advice secret and never accept food or drink from other competitors in case they try to poison her.

Cia, however, is not great on common sense. She recognises another student on her transport-the very hot Tomas and instantly she tells him everything her dad said which could have put her entire family in danger had Tomas decided to tell those in authority! Stupid girl! As well as the danger, she has given away any advantage she had over the others by putting Tomas on alert for spy cameras and suspicious behaviour. She manages to break every rule her dad told her because she believed that Tomas was someone she could trust. For Cia's sake, lets hope she was right to trust the guy!

When they arrive, the tests get underway and I loved this part of the story. First come the written tests which seperates the good from the poorer students and some students find the pressure too much. But then comes the terror of the practical. Everyone is told not to guess during this testing stage and the students who get it wrong get eliminated, badly hurt or die, which is a massive shock to Cia. She starts to realise why her dad's mind was wiped after he passed his tests and that his nightmares are probably flashbacks to what happened to him. This becomes more than a game to Cia...it is about survival and she wonders if everyone eliminated at various stages get to go home at all or if they are murdered.

The testing gets more intense when it comes to the group stage. Each group needs to work together and trust each other for all of them to get through...but some of the students want to eliminate others and will betray everyone to get through themselves. Cia has to persuade the whole of her group to be honest and work together. I loved the puzzles, the intrigue and the sheer tension of this part of the book. I was wondering who could be trusted and what Cia could do to get through as she was doubting that those ahead of her were doing what they agreed to do. I know that sounds quite cryptic but I don't want to say what all the tests are and spoil the book for anyone still to read it. It was fascinating to read this section.

The final task is where we see a similarity to the Hunger Games. The students who are left have to travel 700 miles across an apocalyptic wasteland in a sort of Running Man style game zone. The idea is to protect yourself, avoid others, take items with you to help you survive...and get across the finishing line alive. Of course there are some students who still want to kill the others in a Hunger Games scenario so everyone is very much on edge during this final stage. Who can be trusted? Who will survive to get over the line and claim the University places? This section of the book became a very exciting and tense plot as unknown nutters are trying to kill Cia throughout.

It was personally satisfying to me that during the testing stages I became suspicious of the actions of one person and that person turned out to be a total monster in the final game. It was nice to be right for once! However it was the last part of the book that delivered a couple of very interesting plot twists that set up the second book beautifully and make me very keen to find out what happens next!

This was an excellent YA dystopian thriller, one of the best I've read in the genre.
Read February 2015.  
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