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I Belong

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing

Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Genre: YA Dystopian Romance

Series: The Testing (Book 1)

Publication Date: June 4, 2013

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0547959109 (HMH Children’s)

ISBN-13: 978-0547959108 (HMH Children’s)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin


It’s graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, and the entire Five Lakes Colony (the former Great Lakes) is celebrating. All Cia can think about—hope for—is whether she’ll be chosen for The Testing, a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders of the slowly revitalizing post-war civilization. When Cia is chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmarish half-memories of The Testing. Armed with his dire warnings (”Cia, trust no one”), she bravely heads off to Tosu City, far away from friends and family, perhaps forever. Danger, romance—and sheer terror—await.

Quick & Dirty: Originality is thrown to the corner with the almost exact premise of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, with a few interesting twists. A short read, with some romance and lots of action, but it has a very similar tone and overall feel to it.

Opening Sentence: Graduation day.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The first thing I thought after reading a few chapters was, “It’s like the Hunger Games!” And it is, in so many ways. Malencia, or Cia for short, is chosen to compete in a mandatory “Testing” to win a prize: a future job for The United Commonwealth. Soon she realizes it isn’t just a few hours with a sore hand and pencil — if you lose, you lose your life, your eye, you name it. At one point they are alone in the wilderness, with certain weapons and making allies, picking off competitors and fighting off dangers. (Sounding similar?)  Along with her is a childhood friend, Tomas, and they have a few scenes that made me smile, but nothing compared to the cuteness of the relationship Peeta and Katniss developed. We’re talking about something leading off The Hunger Games, after all. You can’t really beat that, although I feel like Charbonneau made an effort.

This book was cool and all, but after reading Collin’s masterpiece, it didn’t make me feel anything profound. If we’re looking at the writing style, there isn’t anything to complain about —- the sentences flowed smoothly and description was plenty. The characters, in my opinion, were the part of the story that was lacking.

Tomas, Cia’s love interest, wasn’t doing it for me. I was actually convinced throughout the book that he was going to somehow betray her when it mattered most, but I was wrong! You can’t make the love interest smart, handsome, and completely flawless. It’s not realistic, which is why I had my doubts. I feel as if the author didn’t build on their relationship before The Testing enough, because they’re childhood friends, and I feel like if the author sprinkled in some private jokes, I could have warmed up to him.

Another thing was how quickly paced the book moved — one moment, Cia is enthusiastic about The Testing, a page later she has convinced herself that The United Commonwealth is keeping something from her about it. One chapter ends with her walking into her room and finding a roommate who committed suicide, which is surprising considering that character seemed perfectly healthy, if not a nasty personality, an hour or so back.

I feel like the tone was set well, however.  It’s eerie, dark, yet romantic and mysterious.

Wrapping it all up, I thought this book was predictable and unoriginal. I had no problem with the plot or writing, the characters were what made me raise my eyebrows. If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, you might enjoy this. Or you could be like me, irritated that if The Hunger Games was going to be redone, they might have done a better job with it. This is something to get from the library, either way; don’t waste your money unless you’re on Hunger Games withdrawal and seriously need it.

Notable Scene:

Ryme. Nina. Malachi. Boyd. Gill. Annalise. Nicolette. Roman. Zandri.

A pile of bodies lies in the corner when the evaluators turn to me. Dr. Barnes shakes his head. He tells me I showed great promise. It’s too bad I trusted the wrong people. Leaders cannot afford that mistake. He tells me I failed as another Testing official pulls out a crossbow, aims, fires. The quarrel punches through my stomach, and I scream myself awake before I hit the floor.

The Testing Trilogy:

0.5 The Testing Guide

1. The Testing

2. Independent Study (January 7, 2014)

3. Graduation Day (June 3, 2014)

FTC Advisory: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children provided me with a copy of The Testing. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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