Talk to me about all the dystopian YA I’ve read in the last two years and you’ll quickly find out what I loved, liked, hated, and quickly forgot. I clearly love The Hunger Games. I really enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go, Angelfall, and The Bone Season. Uglies was pretty good. Maze Runner, too. And I may have an unhealthy obsession with Ender’s Game.
On the other hand, I know I read Legend and Starters, but I almost can’t prove it because it faded away almost right after I read it. The Suzanne Collins-praised Eleventh Plague was a total snoozefest, along with What’s Left of Me. I thought Unwind was excruciatingly awful. I tried to jump onto the Divergent train, but I didn’t make it, making me no Dauntless. And I don’t let people forget it.
The point is, I won’t tell you I liked something if I didn’t. Back in June, Mockingjay.net got offered the chance to read and review The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau. Busy with Comic Con planning, then busy with Comic Con, then busy with recovering from Comic Con, I didn’t get to it until this month. Once I got past a certain point though, I plowed right through it.
The story is set around sixteen year-old Malecia Vale, aka Cia, who lives in the Five Lakes Colony in a decimated world called the United Commonwealth, which is formerly the United States. People now live in isolated pockets of revitalized lands, all based around the capital called Tosu City. Every year, teens who turn 16 become adults and have a chance to be chosen for The Testing.
People selected for the Testing have a chance to move on to study at the University and go on to jobs that better their society. Cia’s father was once selected and went on to University study and he works as a botanist in Five Lakes.
It should come as no surprise that Cia is selected as a candidate for the Testing, otherwise where would the story go? Cia is a mechanical whiz and dreams of building things to make life for colonists of the United Commonwealth a better place. But before she leaves, her father sits her down and tries to warn her about The Testing. He’s had terrible, haunting nightmares about it, but he doesn’t actually remember any of it because once the Testing ends, their memories are wiped and after their education, they’re sent off to a colony for work, usually never seeing their family ever again.
With all of this in mind, Cia makes her journey to Tosu City, where she soon learns that the Testing is literally a matter of life and death. The concept itself strains believability at times, but I found myself forgiving that for the sake of an entertaining read. Cia, the plot, and the events of the novel bear a lot of similarities to The Hunger Games with just enough of a difference to stand on its own. Still, if someone were to accuse this book of ripping off the building blocks of Katniss and Peeta, I wouldn’t be able to put up much of a counterargument.
That aside, I still enjoyed the book and I look forward to the next installment more than I do for quite a few other YA novels out there. If you’re looking for a quick read that keeps the pages turning and reminds you of The Hunger Games, The Testing is a worthy candidate.