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The Testing

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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 honoured 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 gruelling (and deadly) day of the Testing.

To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

325 pages, Hardcover

First published June 4, 2013

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About the author

Joelle Charbonneau

28 books2,509 followers
I am a storyteller at heart. I have performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theatre productions across the Chicagoland area.

While I'm happy to perform for an audience, I am equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use my experience from the stage to create compelling characters on the page. I am the author of the Rebecca Robbins mystery series (Minotaur Books), The Paige Marshall Glee Club mysteries (Berkley) and The Testing YA triology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,504 reviews
Profile Image for Mitch.
355 reviews605 followers
July 29, 2016
I think I’ve read The Testing at least four different times in the past year - without actually ever having heard of this book. With the success of The Hunger Games, every new dystopian - and gosh darn it there are so many of them now - is being marketed as The Hunger Games meets this or The Hunger Games meets that, but never in a million years would I have suspected I’d read one so blatantly unoriginal that it’s not The Hunger Games meets anything, it’s just The Hunger Games - rehashed, ripped off, whatever. So rather than wasting my breath critiquing this clone, allow me to introduce to you to what I like to call how to write a cookie cutter Hunger Games style knockoff in four easy steps, no EasyBake oven required.

Step One - The Generic Dystopian Landscape
This one is simple. Have a bunch of bombastic sounding nation states with slightly futuristic names blow each other up for no apparent reason other than that this needs to happen in a postapocalypticish setting. Cue nuclear slash biochemical world war followed by unexplained natural catastrophes, leading to people living in generally hardscrabble conditions. Set this shit in one such overtaxed small town, where people live in general squalor but still have the time and materials to make and enjoy ice cream of all things, because when potable water and electricity are everyday concerns, dairy farms and refrigeration can magically ignore the rules of this world. Mix and match various technologies like crossbows, guns, and hovercars and hope the people reading this haven’t passed one of those logic exams where you’re presented with a list of things and asked to pick out the one that doesn’t belong. Oh, and randomly sprinkle in dangerous feral mutants, both animals and human, for added effect.

Step Two - The Derivative Dystopian Government
Basically, big brother is watching. They know what’s good for you, even when you don’t. Even when you think they’re cruel, heartless SOBs - especially when you think they’re cruel, heartless SOBs. Just don't tell any of that to the people lurking around fomenting rebellion. Why are they doing any of this again?

Step Three - The Hackneyed Battle Royale-Style Elimination Competition
Because killing off three quarters of your most promising citizens is such a great way of rebuilding society. Because blithely standing by while someone is twitching on the floor bleeding out from a nail in the eye is great not just for dramatic effect but to show those little shits who's boss. Because sending everyone off into the dystopian wilderness to duke it out and kill each other in a survival of the fittest style test hasn’t been done to death before. Because all the crossbow firing, gun shooting, knife fighting, mutant attacking survivalist stuff will make up for the otherwise complete lack of a plot. Because using stock characters like the complete jerk or the good guy who’s really a bad guy can convince people that this is some wholly original epic where loyalties are tested and bonds forged. Oh, and because doing all of this somehow adds something new to the dystopian genre (hint: it doesn't).

Step Four - The Shallow Romance, Because We Gotta Have Romance
Handsome. Dimple. Same home town. No hints of a prior relationship, but they’ll trust each other anyway. Some light kissing, just because. Until he maybe possibly does something untrustworthy, but who knows? Did I mention the dimple?

And with that, you too can write a Hunger Games knockoff just like The Testing. Just remember to give all the characters random, futuristic sounding names and don't get into the specifics of anything, that’ll just get in the way of the story.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,389 reviews1,104 followers
November 10, 2017
I loved this book! An amazing dystopian novel that is very realistic and believable. One of the best heroines I have read about in recent years. and a world that, while devastated, is one I almost wish I could visit to see what it it like. Lucky for readers, Joelle Charbonneau does a wonderful job in her deliverance of this world to us.

This book is a first person novel from the view of Cia. Cia is a young teen who is specially selected to join in The Testing. The Testing is about selecting future world leaders or specialists of various fields. Cia's father was previously chosen and warns Cia that things may not be as they seem. Cia is a smart young woman. One of the best and well-written characters is YA fiction I have read. Down to earth, smart, compassionate, high sense or morals, dignity and more. She is not all powerful, super-strong, etc. She is your everyday person who has faith in herself. She is helpful to others yet not naive enough to trust others. She is very observant. This simplistic seeming skills are what has her standing apart from the crowd.

The imagery of this story leaves you feeling how real this world is. You can tell that this is still the US that the story takes place in. We get to see what Chicago is like in the story. We have war ravenged mutants, loss of civilization, loss of plant life, water and more and it is very well laid before us exactly to really live in Cia's reality. The world is fighting hard to correct itself. Signs of hope are everywhere yet government lords over everything with an iron grip.

While Cia makes friends, and confronts other less-than-friends, Thomas is her main constant. There is an element of romance in this book but not over the top. Although it never quite feels very real either. The main story line of the test, and Cia's goals and hope are still the focus. The pace is very consistent. There is a LOT happening in this book, but it is not overwhelmingly done. The personality and style of writing is amazing! Conspiracy, survival, friendship and more collide in the spectacular novel!

Great quote from the book that helps set the stage:
“Things don't always work out the way we hope. You just have to pick yourself up and find a new direction to go in.”
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,563 reviews5,864 followers
May 26, 2015
Why haven't I heard more about this book? I started this book this morning and didn't put it down. Even when I had things to do I carried it with me. That's my test for a great read.

The Seven Stages of War have happened and it's left our world in pretty much shambles. There are some communities that have started the rebuilding process and then we have the Testing. The Testing is when the students finish their schooling, they may stand a chance of being called for the Testing and it's their only way of furthering their education. Cia actually wants that. Then her father pulls her aside on the night that she learns that she is being sent to the testing facility.
He tells her Be careful who you trust, Cia. You do that and everything will be okay.

Cia is joined in the Testing by several fellow students from home, including Tomas, she hopes she can trust him of all people. Now some tiny bits of romance do bloom between the two of them but not enough that annoyed me. Cia is too strong a character for that.
I have to wonder if Will isn't correct. Not about keeping me to himself. Tomas knows this isn't the time or place for romantic drama. Survival-passing this test-has to take precedence.
Hells yeah!

Then we have the Testing. This book has been compared by some reviewers as a ripoff/clone of the Hunger Games. I don't give a damn. This book can stand it's own. It's done well and the testing is a fresh view. I LOVED IT. I've stepped away from some other books that I felt like were just rip-offs of popular books but dang.....

Funny, but giving up is the last thing I will do. Not after everything we have witnessed and the things we have been forced to do. Giving up would be like admitting none of it mattered. And it needs to matter. It needs to be remembered.

Now when my husband gets home in a few minutes and asked what I did all day. I may smack him and say:

Just because.
June 12, 2013
I'm still staggering a little from reading this book, but in the very best way. I don't even know how I will formulate a reasonable review without resorting to squealing "OH MY GOD YOU GUISE THIS IS SO GOOD READ IT NOW." But here goes nothing.

YA dystopian is an incredibly difficult category to write, it seems. So many books have attempted to create a likeable, believable character in a well-built, post-apocalyptic, post-infection, or post-war setting. Most have failed, and failed spectacularly. I have heard fellow reviewers compare this book to The Hunger Games and Divergent. I have not read The Hunger Games, although I do know of the premise and the storyline (thanks, Wikipedia). I didn't think I read Divergent but after checking my books, apparently, I did. It was just that forgettable. I'm not judging this book compared to either of these series, but on its own merits, and I can say that it is a damned good book, one of the best pieces of YA fiction that I have read this year. I was not bored for a single moment. As clichéd as it may sound, there is never a dull moment. Cia's first-person narrative is excellent; she is a complex, rational, highly likeable character, and I find myself loving her voice and her train of thought. The plot moves at a fast, but reasonable pace, and I never got lost for a single moment.

The strengths of this book are many, but I will focus on the main character, the setting, and the premise, because I don't want this review to run to ten pages. Rest assured, everything else is well-done, from the most minor characters to the smallest details.

The setting: the post-war United States is well-described and well-written. The setting is beautifully described, and I can see of no gaping inconsistencies of how the world came to be as it is in this book. We are given the background of the United States and how it became the United Commonwealth in the beginning of the book, interspersed with Cia's commentary as she recalls her knowledge during the test:

Question: Explain the First Stage of the War of the Nations.
Answer: The assassination of Prime Minister Chae, which fractured the Asian Alliance, sparked a power struggle among the other nations and a civil war. During the civil war, bombs were dropped on the Korean States, destroying most of the population and causing the meltdown of two nuclear reactors.

The use of technology, the development of plants and hybridized crops, the rarity of water and how it came to be contaminated. The use of radiation and the subsequent mutation of creatures and soil. Everything was so well-explained, and the world in which this book is set is entirely realistic to me. Even more so is the bleak landscape of the former cities and landscapes, like Chicago and St. Louis, the devastated United States is starkly described in vivid, harsh details.

Steel and rock. Glass and wood. Buildings broken and collapsed. Cars completely rusted and overturned. A layer of sooty grime covers it all. Here and there heartier plants are fighting to get beyond the rubble — yearning toward the sun. Vines cover the wreckage of broken cars and buildings. Trees that have been corrupted by the tainted earth but are determined to survive twist through the pieces of the broken city on their way to the sky.

The mutated creatures are huge and terrifying, some human, but barely so. I would hesitate to call some zombies, but they have been so mutated by radiation as to lose most claims to humanity. One can barely distinguish a mutated human from an animal. Except for the eyes. Why is it always the eyes? Windows to the soul, my ass.

The Test - The premise for the Testing is pretty well-done, but I found it a bit far-fetched that so few candidates are chosen every year out of so many. I know there are few survivors after the wars, but roughly twenty admitted to the University every year, with the rest conveniently eliminated (among the best and brightest, too) seems to not be the wisest choice. Still, as wobbly as the premise of the Testing is, at least it is consistent. Consistent in that people are always watching, weakness is a sign of failure, and every movement is analyzed. The Testing procedure and the history of it is frequently analyzed throughout the process by Cia and the students and by the end it is well-explained enough so that even if the idea is rather preposterous, the premise for such harsh testing procedures becomes more credible. It is the premise for everything, the cut-throat behaviors of the other Test-takers, Cia's single-minded determination. It turns into a massive mind-game, as well as a test of knowledge and practical skills, and is nothing if not absolutely thorough. Cheating is not encouraged, although sabotage and the killing of the competition appears to be acceptable. Weakness is not to be tolerated at any point. But why? Why are they looking for such cut-throat skills for their future leaders?

"They can't possibly give someone a passing grade for shooting the competition. What kind of leader would that person be?"
"A strong one. The Fourth Stage of war would never have happened if the president of the United States had attacked the Asian Alliance. Instead, he tried to broker a worldwide coalition even when his own advisers said it was useless. He was a pacifist when the country needed aggression."

There we go. Forget Nelson Mandela. It looks like we needed a Kim Jong Un in the future.

Malencia (Cia) Vale - I'm going to ramble a bit here because I love the main character so much. Cia is the main character in this book, it is her narrative that carries the book along, and she is my favorite thing about it. Cia has definitely earned her spot on my "kick-ass heroines" shelf. She is not a fluffy, frilly Mary Sue who is magically talented and brilliant and beautiful and sparklingly lovely (without knowing it!). Cia is fairly ordinary, but for her intelligence and work ethics. She pursues her studies seriously, she is curious, she has a thirst for knowledge. Cia is brilliant in school, having skipped a grade; despite being the youngest in her class, she excels academically. I love the fact that she is brilliant in the sciences, particularly botany with a side interest in engineering. There really needs to be more females like her in YA fiction, who is strongly interested in engineering, math, and sciences; females are already underrepresented in the sciences in the real world, there's no need to lighten their presence in fiction, too.

Her family are all interested in the sciences, her father is a botany specialist, a University graduate himself who encourages learning among his daughter and sons. Unlike the many hard-knock protagonists we see, Cia has had a somewhat privileged background, as much as privilege can be defined in the harsh existence of a post-war world in a small farming colony. Her father is an important figure, he a botanist who has helped the colony develop and grow crops; this is particularly important in a world where resources and food are rare, and even soil and water are contaminated.

Her life before the Testing is rich not in physical wealth, but in love and knowledge. Cia has grown up in a loving environment where learning is treasured and fostered; this has built her into the kind of character who is confident in her own knowledge and in herself, even if she is still unsure of herself and her future, as teenagers often are. "Are we smart enough? Can we outthink a system that has been in place for decades? That has controlled the lives of hundreds of the brightest minds since the world began to rebuild?" She has long hoped to attend University, or at least of being given a chance at University as a Testing candidate. Her dreams come true, but the Testing process turns out to be a nightmare.

Cia is my favorite type of heroine. Strong, brilliant, rational, never bitchy or annoying, never doing anything without thinking it through. She has her moments of contradiction, but they are rare, and I felt her character was altogether consistent, complex, and well-developed throughout the book. She is not a girly character. This is not because she's opposed to it, but because it has had no place in her life. She grew up with four brothers, after all, and spent most of her time in the fields, learning about plants and engineering in a colony that's barely able to sustain itself. There's just no time for frivolities. She feels out of place with the other girls at the testing center, but her practicality proves to be a merit during the testing when her knowledge, her forethought, and even her rough and tumble clothes factors into survival.

She is such a good thinker, a clear thinker. Her skills for survival consistently impresses me, and her actions are never erratic or out of step with her situation. Once she knows what she is getting into, she is single-minded in her mission to survive the Testing. Cia observes everything, from hidden cameras, to hidden mechanisms, and the way she thinks through the analytical and practical problems on her test was a joy to read.

"The first problem is mathematical — a one dimensional heat equation to determine the flow of heat in a rod where everything but the ends are insulated. These are equations I have used often and make me smile as I get to work."

I cheered for her through every step of the testing. I loved her strength and determination through all the travails she endures during the grueling Testing process. Some may feel she is cold, her reactions are heartless; I don't believe that to be true. She may suffer, but she knows people are always watching. The Test is a test for weakness overall, and Cia is driven for survival. Failing the Test is literally disastrous. She needs to survive, she needs to put sentimentality aside to get through the most difficult situations of her life.

Cia is not a perfect character, in some situations, I felt that she was contradictory. For example, a fellow Test-taker is severely injured and Cia wants to come to his aid, but she knows she cannot.

"A scream builds inside me, fights to get past my clenched throat, but I make no sound...I barely hear the head Testing official talking to me. Asking me if I have completed my test. If not, I must return to my station. Otherwise, there is a risk I will receive assistance from observing another candidate's work. I want to scream that the test doesn't matter. Not when life is draining drop by drop onto the tile floor. But I choke out a yes, and I am released."

She represses her emotions all through the testing process, barely enduring, but hanging on despite everything. Still, she is not heartless, she may show no emotions or any signs of weakness to the people watching, but inside she is much more vulnerable. She sits besides her injured friend anyway, "If he can see, he will recognize something of home. A girl who sang songs with him on the grass and asked him for help when she struggled with her homework. A girl who is his friend. Someone who can't imagine what will happen when he is gone."

She is involved in a romantic relationship with Tomas, someone she has known and trusted her entire life. He is an entirely likeable character, kind, steady, reliable. "Despite his good looks and outgoing personality, Tomas has always been a quiet leader. He is always happy to help a neighbor or one of the younger students, and he does it in a way that does not ask for praise or payment in return. He's someone my father would be proud to have on his team."

Her eventual involvement with Tomas comes as a result of repeated actions of trust and friendship, as they choose to trust and rely on each other in a hostile environment. It is not insta-love or tropey in the least, and I found their romance believable, even under the highly stressful circumstance. They are friends, first and foremost, and their friendship just develops over time into something deeper, rooted in mutual trust and admiration. As much as Cia likes him, she doesn't hesitate to call him out on unreasonable behavior when she sees it. "Try to act like the adults you're supposed to be while I'm busy keeping us all alive. If you can't handle that, you both deserve to fail this test and we all know what punishment that brings."

Despite her strength, Cia is a kind, caring person, even if her softheartedness is a bit overreaching at times towards those who do not deserve her kindness or trust. The decisions she makes are sometimes contradictory to the survival-minded girl we have come to expect, but overall her character is mostly consistent, and she has become one of my favorite YA female protagonists.

There is a subplot, there are backstabbers who you will not see coming, and there will be minor, but subtle hints given. I highly enjoyed guessing the whodunnit. With a book of this premise, we can guess what's going to happen in the end. With this in mind, I eagerly but fearfully anticipate the next book, since this book has been so excellent and filled with excitement that I can't see how the next book will meet my high expectations or at least come close to this first book in action or excitement. Nevertheless, I can't wait for 2014.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,881 followers
June 1, 2013
It’s hard to review a book that made you feel nothing at all. I am an emotional reader, and although I sometimes make halfhearted attempts at objectivity, my reviews generally reflect my emotional reactions, just as it should be. But even though I raced through The Testing and found nothing wrong with it objectively speaking, it didn’t move me one way or the other. Sometimes, a seemingly flawless book can disappoint more than a severely flawed, yet heartfelt read.

Cia’s world is textbook dystopian; by which I mean that all the ingredients are there, almost as if Charbonneau followed a checklist: the wasteland, the ruins, the chemicals, the cruel, secretive government, imminent danger, mutated humans etc. Looking back, there were a few minor plot holes here and there, but nothing that couldn’t be overlooked if only the worldbulding seemed less artificial. As it was, I never felt excitement or dread, not even when Cia was running away from mutated humans through the city ruins.

The romance started wonderfully, but it soon became apparent that it was written to satisfy the readers. I know how reviewers think and what bothers most of us, and I have a feeling Charbonneau does too. For the most part, Cia and Tomas’s relationship was smooth sailing, but they settled into it so comfortably that they never really convinced me. When a problem did come up between them, it was done hastily and unconvincingly, only to be swept under the rug.

Cia has many great qualities – she is highly intelligent, resourceful and genuinely nice. Like the romance, she is exactly the type of protagonist that will satisfy most reviewers. She seems great in theory, but in reality she’s a bit plastic. All of them are underdeveloped, more archetypal then real, and several are taken directly from other books, with only the very basic information (like name and profession) changed.

Even with all the ingredients there, I was not convinced, mostly because The Testing lacks the most important thing of all – heart. It is pretty, but it has no warmth; functional, but fairly emotionless. If there was ever a book that was written solely to satisfy the market, that was perhaps even packaged, it’s this one.
In short, The Testing is the bastard child of The Hunger Games and Enclave, and as much as I love both those books, their illegitimate offspring holds no charm for me.

Profile Image for  ⊱Sonja•●❤️.
2,062 reviews386 followers
May 28, 2022
Cia ist 16 Jahre alt, als sie zur "Auslese" zugelassen wird. An der Auslese nehmen über 100 Kandidaten teil, und zwar nur die besten Schüler aller Kolonien. Cia ist unglaublich glücklich und stolz, ausgewählt worden zu sein, bis sie von ihrem Vater gewarnt wird. Doch richtig entsetzt ist sie erst, als bei der Auslese das erste Mädchen stirbt...

Mein Leseeindruck:
Schon oft habe ich inzwischen gehört, dass das Buch viele Parallelen zu den "Tributen von Panem" aufweisen soll. Dazu kann ich nichts sagen, denn diese Trilogie habe ich noch nicht gelesen.
Mir hat "Die Auslese" sehr gut gefallen, obwohl ich auch sagen muss, dass mir einige Logikfehler in der Geschichte aufgefallen sind. Dennoch liest sich das Buch sehr flüssig und leicht, und die Geschichte ist spannend und manchmal auch recht brutal.
Es gibt überraschende Wendungen und auch ein bisschen Romantik. Alles in allem ein guter Auftakt zu einer neuen Trilogie, die ich gerne weiterverfolgen werde.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,014 reviews1,051 followers
November 13, 2015

"Things don't always work out the way we hope. You just have to pick yourself up and find a new direction to go in."

I have never made a proper review on this book when this is one of those that really deserves one so here’s an attempt to make one.^^

I usually find it unfair when readers would easily dismiss every single dystopian story written after the Hunger Games as exactly like the Hunger Games (HG). Although this may have similar patterns to that of the Classic HG, the Testing is an original and perhaps an even better story.

The story is centered on Malencia Vale or simply called Cia, a normal young girl but who is very smart and passionate about knowledge and has always wanted to be part of the Testing which is a process where a few selected graduates from high schools from every city have to go through and pass series of tests in order to be admitted to the prestigious University of the United Commonwealth (a post apocalyptic version of U.S) to eventually become future leaders themselves.

Just as she thought she won’t be chosen, a twist of fate gives Cia the greatest news that she is qualified to be one of the testing candidates after all. Little did she know that the fulfillment to her biggest dream is the biggest threat to her life all along.

The plot begins a little slow during the first few chapters but the pace picks up and intensifies and I found myself drawn to every event of the story. The tests as Cia’s father warned her of aren’t the typical ones because not only do they require the candidate’s overall knowledge and skills, they also require her to carefully select which people she can trust.

The different tests allowed Cia to develop as a character from an innocent, scared young girl to a very wise, determined candidate who despite other candidates’ awful means to pass the tests, is still willing to go by what is right. The best thing I love about her is her wisdom and intelligence. I really enjoyed reading how she cautiously goes through the tests and avoids losing not only her chance at the university but her life as well.

The Testing is an awesome beginning to one of my most favorite dystopian trilogies and which I believe deserves more attention.^^
Profile Image for angela .
785 reviews137 followers
May 10, 2020
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when starting this book, but was extremely pleased. It was such a great story. The characters were very likable, different from each other and all around great (even though not all of them do good things). This book had my full attention from the beginning and never lost it, for even a moment. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great book.

I would have liked the ending to have been different. I felt it was abruptly ended, with questions unanswered. If not for that I would have easily given it 5stars. The reader of the book did a good job, but when talking like Tomas, she didn’t do him well. It gave me a strange impression of him. I just over looked it the best I could.

Overall a great book, I’m happy to have listened to.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,857 reviews1,048 followers
June 8, 2013
Initial reaction: I'm less than impressed with "The Testing." It started off intriguing enough, but as the story continued, I think the quality of it devolved and I couldn't suspend my disbelief with respect to many elements that came across and unraveled at the seams as it continued on. The story did have some interesting points, but never came to fruition with them as the emotional quality of the story and characterizations missed their mark.

Full review:

I'm going to avoid direct comparisons with other young adult dystopian novels for the moment because while we could throw out some of the bigger titles in this genre and give side by side comparisons of similar functions, that really wasn't my problem with the narrative. I can take a story that has similar thematics or constructions just so as long as it maintains my suspense of disbelief, keeps me invested in the ovearching plot and characters, and gives me value in the ride I'm taking.

Sadly, I thought "The Testing" had a very serious problem with emotional mismatch and stakes through the work. Perhaps not so much at the beginning, but certainly by a good measure towards the middle and end of the book.

The story centers on Cia Vale, a young woman who has just graduated from school and is preparing for the next stage in her life. In this dystopian universe, selected students are "invited" to compete for spots at the University level called "The Testing." It's a procedure filled with dread for Cia's family, particularly when she's chosen and must leave them behind. Her father confesses that she should've never been chosen and gives her some ominous warnings about the process. Cia goes in thinking she's prepared, alongside friend and potential love interest.

"The Testing" starts out being a series of evaluations (sort of like standardized tests), but then there are some given twists in the book that I'll admit I didn't see coming and intrigued me. The whole scene with the poisoned plants test - that was an interesting scenario. One false move, make mistakes, and you would be in a world of hurt from the consequences, if not dead. It's a test environment for extremes that kind of reminded me of a few games I played (In a way, I kind of started picturing in my mind that the Testing center looked a lot like the environment for "Portal" and "Portal 2" if anyone's played those games. And those games were fun.)

Granted, there were other scenarios that didn't really pull me into the narrative because they were a little more difficult to believe in a controlled environment, but I didn't mind them as much because I realized this was an environment of extremes, and there were going to be test takers who it would be a matter of time before they were "eliminated". I liked the power struggles I saw, and I liked how Cia was perceptive enough to see other people gaming the system, even if I had a hard time believing that they would be so desperate to reach University in this environment based on the information given (it wasn't completely vetted out for motivation, I think. Parts of it I saw did work, but others were a little more sketchy.)

It was when this environment moved to the field test, which had the students surviving in the wild and killing off each other, that the story started to unravel at the seams for me. What with Cia's love interest being more concerned about having his pants down in front of her and smiling pervishly about that...versus the branch impaled in his leg and bleeding internally.

Priorities, man. Priorities.

On a serious note, it was a little hard to believe, considering the focal points in this part of the story. The love interest scenario didn't really work because it was forced and the chemistry between the characters didn't feel natural. And when a certain betrayal comes into consideration, I didn't feel much for it because it felt like a plot point rather than a palpable deception. Granted, I had my suspicions and didn't see it coming, but the emotional weight didn't support it. I had a very difficult time connecting with the characters and their ultimate motivations behind the things they did. It has a lot of action, and it does keep the ball rolling in terms of not knowing what will happen, but it doesn't really give as much substantiated motivation or emotional weight as it could've done.

The end of the novel punctuates an end that at first has some finality in a dark turn, but at the same time opens up a new possibility for events where Cia may regain something she has lost in the build up to that point. It's interesting, but I'll admit I'm on the fence as to whether or not I'd give the second book a go. I think those who like "Hunger Games", "Divergent," and focus more on the action dynamic may not have a problem with it, but it's a hard sell in some details with the way it prioritizes more minor pursuits than palpable, heightened states of duress and challenge.

I'm on the fence at the moment about the sequel, but I think this could've been a better effort than it was, even with consideration of its derivative qualities.

Overall score: 2/5

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,205 reviews145 followers
August 3, 2022
If THE TESTING had been written as a school assignment …

… it undoubtedly would have been categorically rejected and disqualified for blatant plagiarism.

The front cover marketing blurb on the edition I read gushed, THE TESTING is a chilling and devious dystopian thriller that all fans of THE HUNGER GAMES will simply devour.” Hard to argue with that and it’s a shame because THE TESTING is well written. Had I encountered it before I read THE HUNGER GAMES, I almost certainly would have written a glowing 4- or 5-star review.

But the fact remains that THE HUNGER GAMES was written first and I read it first. I persevered and I hoped but the character, the incident, the plot twist, the sub-plot or the overall story direction that would have made the distance between the two novels somewhat greater than the diameter of a Covid-19 virus just never materialized. Shame on you, Joelle Charbonneau, and shame on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for accepting THE TESTING for publication.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
724 reviews4,628 followers
September 30, 2018
4 Stars for The Testing

Yes, The Testing has similarities to Divergent and The Hunger Games but it's just different enough to set it apart and strong enough to make it's own name in the vast YA Dystopian category.

About the Book:
The world has been ravaged by The Seven Stages War. The United Commonwealth is trying to re-build with the help of a few chosen students. Cia has worked hard in school to be "chosen" as a candidate for The Testing so that she can attend the University. Unfortunately, The Testing is not at all what Cia imagined it would be. Here is where you would mentally insert comparisons to The Hunger Games. The Testing is not just cut throat - passing the different stages determines if you live or die. I don't want to provide spoilers but the different stages of The Testing were fast-paced and interesting and by far my favorite parts of the book.

I enjoyed the main character, Cia. Cia was smart (she knows all about botany and is into engineering - I love that!), rational (I loved how she puzzles things together!), vulnerable (in a way that was true to her age) and caring. Even in an environment that rewards vicious, ruthless behavior Cia was kind and struggled with choices that went against her heart. I appreciated her remaining true to herself and her core values.

There is quite a bit of death and violence in the book as you'd expect from a YA Dystopian read. People tend to be ruthless and cutthroat in this kind of world. The actual "Testing" process was very interesting. It was like a massive psychological mind game. It kept Cia analyzing, second guessing and doubting everything. I was right there with her for it all.

There is also a touch of romance in the book but nothing inappropriate if you have a middle school reader. It wasn't dominant which I liked. I felt like Cia was too strong to be sidetracked by a boy when she had so much going on. She knew how important it was & I was glad to see that she kept Tomas from becoming front and center.

I hope the rest of the series will be equally good or better. The cliffhanger ending definitely piqued my interest. I'll certainly be reading on at some point to see what happens next as they move from The Testing to the University.
Profile Image for James Tullos.
292 reviews1,367 followers
October 23, 2021
This feels like someone tried to rewrite The Hunger Games after only hearing about it from a drunk friend.
Profile Image for Blaine.
729 reviews580 followers
January 4, 2023
“Things don’t always work out the way we hope. You just have to pick yourself up and find a new direction to go in.”

At first, The Testing felt like a rip off of The Hunger Games. And it certainly is. But the book got more interesting as it went along. The third test was a clever puzzle. I also liked the several threads left open by the ending. Will Cia believe the recording she left for herself? Does Tomas still have his memories? What role (if any) did Tomas play in Zandri's death? Maybe the answers won’t be that interesting. Maybe the second book will just be a ripoff of Catching Fire with Cia stuck in the middle of a brewing civil war. But I liked this book enough that I’ll listen to the next one to find out.

Side note: I listened to the audiobook and the narrator sounds too young. She sounds like the person who voices the Junie B. Jones books (I checked, she isn’t), which isn’t quite right for a “late-teens stuck in a post-apocalypse dystopia” story.
Profile Image for Grace (LovingDemBooks) Z..
189 reviews1,419 followers
April 15, 2015
Buy this book HERE on Amazon or buy this book HERE on BookDepository with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIIPPING

I received an finished copy of this book from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

2 of 5 stars (Please read my rating system further below).
Click HERE to watch my review on my YouTube channel LovingDemBooks

My rating system: (I do use half stars.)
5 - I do not use the 5 star. Not because a book might not be worthy, but because a book is never perfect.
4 - I loved it! There weren't too many flaws, and I had no trouble getting through it. (A 4 star rating is the highest rating I've ever given a book.)
3 - I enjoyed the book, but there we're flaws that made me enjoy it less.
2 - I finished the book, but there were too many flaws for me to enjoy it.
1 - I could not finish the book, and I probably did not finish it....
Profile Image for Katy.
611 reviews333 followers
June 10, 2013
The dystopian phenomenon has really taken off, possibly rivaling the vampire craze. And of course, I'm a huge fan of the genre who loves just about every book. But never have I felt that one was a failed attempt to duplicate The Hunger Games.

The selection process into the official contest, the rounds of training or in this case what felt like the pretest, the being thrown into an "arena" and going around killing to be among the survival of the fittest, the recording and monitoring system (what was the point of those?), even the patterns of the romance. I've seen other books pick up a few elements here and there, but in this one, it was all too much. Only with this one, I wasn't too impressed.

I was annoyed four chapters in when, after her father's warnings, Cia decided to spill out her secrets to someone who I wasn't sure I was ready to trust. And just when I was ready to yell at her for being so stupid, Charbonneau felt the need to give some justification for her actions. Only, I didn't buy it. I mean, come on now.

The second thing was, the first half of the book dragged. Don't get me wrong, the tests themselves had potential to be interesting and what happened during them builds the story, but I was bored out of my mind. I honestly believed that half or even a third of that would have been sufficient.

If I were to run the tests…

Maybe I'm being harsh, but I was just ready for the action to start and for them to start running around and killing each other. Well, maybe not, but I was ready for the story to move along.

I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the second half. I mean, traveling through the unknown (even though it's more of a set up) and overcoming the challenges that face them - the makings of a story that really interests me. I will say though, that it wasn't too different from many of the other dystopian books I have read, especially ones with game-like competition, namely, The Hunger Games. The similarities there are just too obviously blatant.

However, I do not like the attempt at establishing a plot around the candidates being monitored. This is an element that's been appearing in more contest-like dystopian books lately. And you assume that they're being monitored for testing purposes, but it seemed kind of pointless for the amount of effort that Charbonneau put into drawing our attention to the cameras and recorders. I mean, there was no audience watching for entertainment or there were now playbacks at the end where the moderators question what a candidate was thinking or why they did something. It wasn't even used as a way to keep tabs on them for the contest - like when they needed help or notification of when they died. I mean, you assume it does, but Charbonneau never qualifies their justification for being there in the first place.

And I have to blanch at the attempt of the romance here. I've expressed some of my qualms earlier, but I just didn't buy the romance. First of all, Either way, I felt the romance was kind of forced in this book, and when there were sweet scenes, they didn't sit right with me. I'm not sure if it was because of my lack of trust or suspicion of an ulterior motive, but the romance scenes just felt unnatural.

I think this book has a lot of potential. But the concept isn't something that's new, and the elements are those that are borrowed from other dystopian books - as wells overused. And with the dragging beginning and the awkward relationships - not only in the romance department but also among friends - I'm just left wishing that it had been more.

PREVIOUSLY: Because I couldn't resist when NG sent me an email saying I'm automatically approved... And because they're going to make a movie... Sigh, sometimes I hate my impulsive ARC-requesting compulsion.
Profile Image for Krys.
733 reviews170 followers
August 2, 2015

The Testing is the first book in a new Dystopian trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau. This is her first time writing for the Young Adult market.

The Seven Stages War ravaged much of the United States and now the leaders have issued a challenge for choosing potential leaders - The Testing. The Testing is something that many children aspire to but few achieve. Cia lives in an outlying colony called Five Lakes in what remains of the country. She has worked her whole life with one goal in mind - to be chosen. When Cia's hopes come true she undergoes the most grueling and stressful series of events designed to separate the strong from the weak.

Comparisons to The Hunger Games are going to be inevitable with this book. And warranted. Simply put, this book owes a lot to Suzanne Collins. It would not exist without the success of that book series. However, if The Hunger Games is the overachieving, willful parent than this book is its scrappy and precocious progeny. It does not bother me that another book will be name-dropped in the marketing of this book. Those fans will like this. Scratch that, those fans will love this with the fiery passion of a thousand suns... if they can get past the similar, formulaic execution that both books share. In truth it's a mirror image, but it's a damn good facsimile.

Cia is a great narrator to follow in this book. She is headstrong and forthright, a problem solver. Beneath her intelligence and her capabilities lies a fragile, vulnerable girl - a girl who hesitates when she must perform a difficult task... a girl who doubts her first instinct. It is Cia's compassion that ring true for the reader. This is a character who cannot forget the value of friendship, of trust and of reliance upon others, no matter what she faces. She's the girl who won't leave those she loves behind. Her moral compass will polarize the readers who want her to succeed, and simultaneously fail, the intense battles that make up The Testing.

Cia is tested. And she fails. And overcomes. She loves, and loses. She gains and wins, but can never go back. Because nothing is as it seems in The Testing and every triumph hides lies and malice beneath. The Testing is complex. And simple. And pulse pounding. And completely readable. It's one I enjoyed reading and look forward to the sequel, Independent Study, with much anticipation.

5 out of 5 stars.

- review courtesy of www.bibliopunkkreads.com
Profile Image for Rachel Maniacup.
153 reviews80 followers
October 21, 2015
**I was about to type my review on this book after rating it but the power here in our country suddenly went off(again),due to another big typhoon that hit our poor country(again).Not only that the power shut down for 2 days,but the commodities shot uphill as well.And now that the power has just been restored,it's the water service we've lost this time!Oh my! Thank God,we're all okay and could still manage to smile inspite of all these calamity.**

Sorry for my tragic introduction,just can't help mentioning it..

Anyway,here's my review:
This book definitely is going to "My favorite dystopian series" shelf!^^
The plot might look like the combination of the Hunger Games and Divergent,but I found that this is unique in its own way and I believe that this was made to become a better dystopian series,and be effectively a more desirable book.

This is a story of young bright,promising students(16 year olds and above),who were chosen to be tested and prepared to become future leaders,by contributing their skills and abilities in revitalizing the earth,and to make the Commonwealth a better place in the future.

I really liked the idea of the author on the "testing aspect" that she generated here,'cause it's realistic.This is the first stage of the Testing where the chosen candidates takes an actual academic examinations that they should pass,in order to proceed to three more stages.

I loved all the characters and their personalities especially Cia Vale,the MC,because she's the smartest female protagonist I've ever met in a dystopian series. She's all in one: a gifted person indeed,intelligent,resourceful,brave,kind,caring,and a tinker! Yes,she fix and repair broken things!That's how talented she is.

To my dearest friend who recommended this to me,thank you so much and I absolutely do agree with you..that all government officials/politicians should have under gone the Testing,specifically in our country,lol! Because the Testing also tests the candidates'character,leadership,and their ability to work and survive..not just their intellects. But then,if they did,no leaders could have been ruling us right now,right SARAH?hahaha!

To all dystopian fans,don't ever miss these series!
Got to dive now on the 2nd book!^^
Profile Image for Kelly Brigid ♡.
200 reviews282 followers
September 20, 2018

Ahhh, why can't all young adult dystopias be like this?! As you may have noticed in my review for Matched, I think YA dystopias are pretty hard to write. The Testing was so often compared to The Hunger Games and Divergent that I couldn't help but draw similarities between them, as I was reading it. Though the Tests are somewhat similar to Dauntless Initiation and The Hunger Games, it's wholly unique and it's own. The pace is excellent, Cia is a an awesome protagonist (who isn't a Mary Sue), the plot is exhilarating, and dang, I couldn't put this book down!

A brutal World War has left America, along with the rest of the world, a desolate, toxic wasteland. Cities were desecrated, and plants, animals, & humans were mutated. Malencia (Cia) Vale wants nothing more than to attend the United Commonwealth University, where she will be able to help rehabilitate her desolate country and home.

After her graduation, Cia's wish is granted - she is chosen as a candidate for the Testing. If she passes the Tests thrown at her, she will be admitted to the University. The problem? Wrong answers are penalized with death, & less than twenty percent of the candidates make it through...and some will do anything to achieve a spot.

I am a  huge fan of any sort of competition to the death. Mwhuahaha.  But seriously, I really like books with that concept. It's no surprise that I loved the Tests and battle-royale-like competitors.

You know those books *cough*Divergent *cough* that have an intriguing setting, but don't give any detail as to how the society came to be like that? And no, there was a nuclear war and this totalitarian government rose... is not a thorough enough explanation for my liking. In The Testing, we're actually given the background of how the United Commonwealth was formed - the nuclear war is described in detail (Asia declared war on the United States, they retaliated, Africa allies with Asia...etc). I'm aware that's probably inaccurate, but you get the picture. What really fascinated me was the struggles the colonies go through trying to cope with the radiated and mutated soil, and the use of technology to develop hybridized vegetation.

I also loved the ruins of the major cities like Chicago and St. Louis, and the harsh landscape that had overtaken them. The mutated animals and humans were really neat as well, because they weren't the typical zombies (?)  that are in every YA book, and they only make an appearance two or three times. They reminded me of the mutts from The Hunger Games, but that's probably just because their eyes still appear human, even though the rest of them is a mangled, bloody mess.

The Testing. I really liked the idea of the Testing, but had two main issues with it: why are so few admitted to the University, & why would you kill off eighty percent of the most intelligent minds in the Commonwealth?  The whole  end justifies the means saying as an infrastructure for dystopian societies has always seemed unrealistic to me. Looking past that, the Tests were well-done. The officials are constantly monitoring every seemingly, insignificant detail and decision you make. Not only is it a very physical test, but a mental one too. You can't show any weakness or fear, but don't want to be seen as a threat, or else you will surely sabotaged or killed.

“I'll have you fixed in no time. Only...” His eyes narrow. “Only what?” I feel the blush heating my cheeks even before I say, “You're going to have to remove your pants for me to do it.”  

This is going to sound really unimportant and stupid (because it is), but I love it when heroines are short! Hahaha. I'm only 5'2, so it's nice when there are characters who can understand what it's like to be small. *Ahem* Moving on...Cia isn't a special snowflake; she's an average 16-year-old girl (though, a little more intelligent than most) who grew up in a relatively small colony, with her parents and four brothers. She's curious, clever, resourceful, and I loved her! Her humanity and trust in others makes her such a likable protagonist. Unlike most heroines, Cia doesn't spend half the book mooning over some guy, and isn't magically brilliant and beautiful! I also really liked that she takes an interest in mechanical engineering and botany.

Cia's relationship with Tomas was done really well. Tomas may be a little cliche, but what the heck, I thought he was awesome. He's so sweet and caring to Cia. I liked how their romance wasn't insta-love, and it manifested over time. It felt realistic and genuine, and wasn't over done. I especially loved how Cia would call him out if he did something stupid. Haha.


Sheesh, I love this book (in case that wasn't clear yet). The characters, setting, plot, romance, and execution are all spectacular. I honestly don't know how this book could've been any better. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who has an interest in dystopias.
Profile Image for Jon.
599 reviews629 followers
June 3, 2013
Seen at my blog, Scott Reads It!
I have absolutely zero self control when it comes to dystopian books. I just have this urge to read any dystopian book I can get my hands on and often I end up extremely disappointed. So many authors are trying to capitalize off the success of The Hunger Games and so their books turn out to be very mediocre. The Testing is essentially a wanna-be, it tries so hard to be the next Hunger Games yet it ultimately fails.

The Testing is about a test that will determine whether or not you can go to University. This sounds like an awesome idea but it turns out this extreme standardized test has already been done before and way better (ex: Legend). Next up we have a protagonist who is very one dimensional and suffers from lack of development. I was pretty apathetic and didn't care for Cia at all. Next up we have a love interest whose whole demeanor screamed "Peeta impostor" in my mind. Cia and Tomas's relationship was awfully similar to Katniss and Peeta's romance, there is even a moment that reminded me of the cave scene from The Hunger Games.

The problem with The Testing is that it's pretty tedious and at times it felt like a chore. It's not a good sign when all of your homework is done and you're avoiding the book you're reading. The first half of The Testing (or so) is literally dialogue and Cia taking written exams. The dialogue isn't even witty or entertaining, sometimes the reader wasn't even informed what actually was said. There were so many times in The Testing when instead of saying verbatim what the character said, Charbonneau just tells the reader what they were talking about. The dialogue that was in The Testing was pretty basic and was nothing special at all.

The relationships between the characters were extremely underdeveloped and I didn't care for any of the characters. I don't even remember any of the characters' names (except Cia) because they were so bland and unremarkable. I even had to look up what Cia's love interest was named which is very sad! I remember the characters from books that I read years and years ago, yet I couldn't remember the names of the characters from this book. Nothing stood out to me about these characters because they never really caught my attention.

The romance in this book is extremely awkward and badly done. Cia and Tomas's relationship is built on absolutely nothing and they have zero chemistry at all. The fact that they are from the same area and that they are both taking The Testing, doesn't mean that they have to fall in love with each other. I didn't even understand why Cia and Tomas even liked each other because there was no spark between them. I'm not sure why the author included a romance, my guess is to conform with the generic dystopian mold.

The Testing has some shoddy world-building and I had zero idea how The United Commonwealth was formed. The United Commonwealth was a total mystery to me and I feel like I knew nothing about it at all. To tell you the truth, if there was any world building I'm not sure I would have even cared because I was so bored with this book. I wanted to Charbonneau to make me care about the world she created but she never did.

The Testing isn't absolutely terrible, there a few good things about it. The ending of this book is actually executed surprisingly well and I loved the final action sequences. The author set up the sequel in an extremely interesting way but I don't really have any interest in reading the sequel. (I probably won't read it, but I'm not ruling out the possibility that I will read it). The only thing I didn't like about the ending was the extremely obvious setting up of a love triangle; does every book really need a love triangle? I'm getting sick and tired of all these love triangles because most of them are done so poorly.

I'm pretty confident that The Testing will become a popular book and will sell extremely well. The Testing already has received a starred from Publisher's Weekly and so many bloggers are obsessed with this book. I'm in the minority who didn't enjoy this book; maybe I have read way too many dystopian books. I feel like the dystopian genre can no longer surprise me because so many authors like Charbonneau are just recycling concepts that been done a thousand times over.

Bottom Line:
If you're looking to read a great dystopian book, The Testing is not for you.
Profile Image for Jillian Heise.
2,272 reviews481 followers
May 10, 2013
Review originally posted on Heise Reads & Recommends

First Thought: Oh my goodness! SO good! An engrossing, thrilling, intriguing, suspenseful story set in a well-built future world.

I really enjoyed reading THE TESTING. I was engrossed it in from the start. At first, I was a little worried that it would be too reminiscent of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, but as I got into it, I realized that it was completely it's own creation of this world, while maybe feeling like an homage to those great dystopians that have come before it.

It was so hard to put THE TESTING down. Joelle Charbonneau wrote a well-paced plot, and once I got to certain parts throughout, it was impossible not to keep reading so that I could find out what would happen and who would survive. I very much liked the main character, Cia, and was pulling for her throughout the book. She is smart, while still being young and sometimes making decisions that made me want to yell at her, but her intelligence and insights are what keep her going. In a game of who can you trust, she learns to really think through all situations, but that doesn't mean she figures all of it out. In a contest of who can make a great leader, it is difficult to know exactly what the officials might be looking for, but staying true to oneself and one's upbringing can always been seen as the right path. Cia's path is not easy, her decisions are not easy, her ability to live with herself after what she has to do to survive will not be easy, but she stays true to herself which is an admirable quality.

The world-building was done well in giving the reader enough information when necessary, but also keeping us guessing about some things. The scenes of explanation are smoothly entrenched in what is happening in the story and propel the plot forward, but also give us enough insight into how things might have come to be this way. The overall idea behind The Testing is so smart, and so manipulative, and scary at the same time. I just hope all of the characters that I have come to like will make it through this series.

And, yes, there is an element of romance, but in a brutal contest that is set up to kill off candidates who are not worthy, and a system that is set up to make you question the ulterior motives of everyone around you, and in a world in which all may not be as it seems, how can one be sure of anything that happens during The Testing or trust one's own memories? That remains to be seen.

Final Thoughts: I'm calling it now - I think this is going to be the next big dystopian series...it will at least fill that hole left behind from the end of the The Hunger Games and the upcoming end of the Divergent series.
Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
708 reviews1,965 followers
September 20, 2018
All the living want to do is care for the dead. And now they, too, are among the fallen.

For those of you who aren't interested in the entire review, here's a recap:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

If that's not exhaustive enough for you, lemme give you all the details.
Like I've said in one of my first reading updates, this reads exactly like something randomly picked from The Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Legendor The Selection.
It doesn't matter what page or character you pick, it doesn't make much difference because the essence is the exact same.
The winning formula is all there, in all its tropey glory: there's strong heroine with family to save, an incredily fucked up society the protagonist will try to fight, a childhood best friend who won't remain only a friend for so long, lots and lots of drama, and a small amount of action that makes sure you don't fall asleep on every turn of the page.
You see what I mean here? It's like reading the same book over and over again, only each time it gets less and less entertaining and interesting.
Now, if only this one had something....more. It would have been an entirely different story.
Instead, it's a story that rides on all the aforementioned books' success's coattails. Maybe it's a bit tamer and less original than its foreruners, and maybe, that's what penalizes it.
The writing surely didn't knock me off my feet. The dialogues were basic and, I don't know if it was me or if the whole story was lacking the kind of world-building you sort of need in books like this one, but I still have some serious trouble understanding why and how certain things happened and were the way they were. What the ever loving frack is The United Commonwealth? One day I'll find out. Or maybe not.
The plot...well, it had its moment, but I can't exactly say there's much going on. I swear it has nothing to do with the fact that this book is basically a huge minestrone of ya dystopian elements.
If you think I only truly enjoyed myself when bad things happened, you'll understand my grief.
In short, it gave me basically nothing in terms of emotion and it's not the kind of story you want to rememer.
The beginning is dull and exceptionally boring, but it gets slighlty better as you go on. Mind that I said slightly. I had to force myself to continue and it's never a good thing. Controversies? Plot twists? They apparently don't live here.
The characters were okay. I don't mind the protagonist. Cia Vale is nice and capable of making her own choices but she's also overall pretty bland, both in the substance and in the appearance. It must be some kind of requirement to overthrow the goverment, being pretty-without-effort and in such critical and hard times.
It also wouldn't kill nobody to see a little more diversity in these books, to be honest. Although it's not a problem that concerns The Testing only, I'm still a bit disappointed about it.
The romance too felt a little forced and, in my opinion, unneccessary. It's clear as day that it's underdeveloped and pretty much there to serve a fanbase. Plus, Tomas and Cia have incredibly poor chemistry. If you're one of those people who think Peeta and Katniss match like a pirate boot and a pendrive, this is not the kind of pairing you'll be wanting to root for. Less alone read of it.
Ironically enough, I really liked the ending. It felt like Charbonneau did a couple extra shots of Powerade and gave in to her wild inner self. If the entire book looked even slightly like those few last pages did, I think I'd have loved this waaaaaaaaay more than I actually did.
I highly approve of wild Charboneau and I'd love to see her again.
Just to be clear, The Testing is not a bad book. At all.
It just could have been developed better. It wouldn't have hurt if it had a more original touch, as well.
I'm not going to continue the series, but that ending made me want to know what happens next, so I'm picking the shortest and easiest way and creeping my way into one of those summary sites.
Feel free to hit me with spoilers if you have any :D
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
December 4, 2013
Update 12/4/13 This book is free on Amazon today.

Initial thoughts: 3.5-4.0 stars. Despite my reservations, I did enjoy this book and while there are parallels to The Hunger Games (2nd half of the book), it is a solid start to the series. I'll definitely be reading on.

My review:
The Testing takes place in a world ravaged by the aftermath of war and a series of natural disasters. Resources are limited: a university education is a highly coveted prize. Each year a group of the most talented students are chosen to compete in The Testing for one of the twenty available spots. The competition is ruthless and many candidates succumb to the pressure. Others are not so lucky: their mistakes carry a higher cost – their lives.

Cia Vale is from the Five Lakes Colony. When she and four others from her small town are chosen to compete in The Testing, she is very excited. Her family does not share her enthusiasm. Her father had been through The Testing years ago and he does not have any memories of the selection process. Cia, along with her friends, is taken by skimmer to the capital city of Tosu where they will be tested.

At first the tests seem innocuous: general knowledge exams in which Cia and her friends from Five Lakes Colony do well. As the testing progresses, a more sinister side becomes apparent. The competition becomes more brutal. Failure to complete a test correctly can results in pain or dismemberment or even death.

Then comes phase two. This is where the candidates are dropped off into the wilderness and told to find a way back to Tosu. This is where the book becomes very “Hunger Games-ish.” Cia and Tomas vow to work together to find their way back.

I think that I really enjoyed the second half of the book. The pacing was action packed and you never really knew what obstacle would be thrown in Cia and Tomas’ way. I adored Cia and Tomas The romance between these two was tender and sweet. I loved how they took care of each other. Cia and Tomas are the MacGyvers of this world. Give Cia a box of nuts and bolts and other assorted junk and that girl will fashion a bicycle. Cia was so smart and resourceful. I also liked that she had strong morals and did not resort to the dirty tricks that the other candidates used.

As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think why a society would have only twenty spots for a university education. Surely a society ravaged by war and all sorts of environmental disasters would want to keep all of its most promising students and leadership candidates rather than killing them off in some ridiculous testing program. This is the part where I just had to suspend belief and just keep reading.

The Testing is a solid start to the series. The next book The Testing: Independent Study is expected to be published January 7, 2014. If you’d like to get a sample of this author’s writing, there is a free prequel available called The Testing Guide. This short story gives an overview of the world and also includes the first 3 chapters of The Testing.

Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a review copy of this book.

Review posted on Badass Book Reviews.
Profile Image for Marketa.
109 reviews748 followers
August 15, 2016
Musím se přiznat, že ačkoliv na mě takhle kniha působila trochu jako vykrádačka HG a jiných "soutěžních" příběhů, tak se mi fakt líbila. :) Postavy byly suprově vykreslené, vlastně i "dystopický" svět se povedl (a to já ráda. když to dává smysl). A i přes některá klišé a věci, které mi hlava doteď nebere, se moc těším na další díl!
Profile Image for Paige Friske.
21 reviews
February 8, 2021
Very good I thought it was going to be to similar to THE HUNGER GAMES, but It was not. Would recommended.
Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews289 followers
March 23, 2014
I won this ARC from a blog giveaway, thanks! This has probably been my favorite read in the past few weeks, but I couldn't give it five stars for issues that I couldn't ignore.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau has been on my list to read for a long time. It's been compared to the Hunger Games, and stars Cia, who is in one of the colonies who have not had any candidates selected for The Testing in a long time. The Testing has been put in place after war has devastated the world to find the best candidate leaders of the country to go to University. No one in Cia's town knows much about The Testing except for her own father, who refuses to speak about it. Cia is chosen with three other people in her class, and she starts a difficult and treacherous journey where either death or glory can await.

I admit I was really into this book. Cia is a great main character-- she's humble, gracious, and has a good heart. But at the same time, she is super intelligent and has obviously been trained well by both her school and her father. Other reviewers have mentioned that she may be too perfect, at least in the sense of being able to do things and always being right for the most part, at least about her instincts on traps and puzzles. I agree. It would have been nice to see other characters contribute as well. They obviously were smart enough to get there.

Some reviewers were upset with how "boring" the testing part was, but actually, I loved that part. I really enjoyed the section where Cia figures out something key that allows her to pass to the next test and thought it was pretty clever. The test revealed something about several of the characters. I did think it was odd that even though her father gave her the warning not to trust anyone, she seems to have developed a sixth sense suspicion, which seems almost too good to be true. I also liked the descriptions of the other tests. It shows what kinds of things Cia is good at before she gets tested further in the third portion of the test.

The journey Cia takes with her love interest, Tomas, from thereon out was gripping, and I wanted to know what each of the characters were hiding. I was definitely surprised by some of the outcomes. This was the first book in a while that I was contemplating buying the next book on Kindle immediately to see what happens next.

That said, other than the issues I alluded to above, there were a couple of other problems. I agree with others that the love connection between Cia and Tomas seems kind of quick and unbelievable. There are "hints" to the past, about looking longingly at each other during a dance, but we never see that, so we never really feel for them and root for them. And lastly, the world building isn't perfect. I definitely don't get why people have to die during the Testing. And what happens to the people who fail? It isn't clear what happens to them-- but I feel like the book hints to them being executed. It seems to me that people that put their own gain above the needs for others (meaning people who kill to "win") would probably not make very good leaders, but hey, that's me. Hopefully, more world building will be revealed in the next book.

Overall, there are definite similarities between this book and The Hunger Games, and probably has been in somewhat inspired by that trilogy, but I believe it stands on its own. I don't know if it's because I haven't read a dystopian in a while (I burned myself out like many other reviewers and then took a long break), or what, but I really like the "test" aspect to the whole thing, which was definitely lacking in The Hunger Games, which it should, since that wasn't the focus.

I think this was a great debut novel, and Charbonneau definitely has a talent at keeping us on our toes and glued to the page. Even though I have 20 more books to get through, I may just take a break from my reading list and pick up the second today.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,805 followers
January 26, 2015
What shall I say here????? I've seen the comparisons between this book and Hunger Games. I suppose that can't be escaped. YA novels tend to run in cycles. After harry Potter dozens of books placed in "magical schools" hit the shelves. Some were good, others not so much.

Now that said...there's actually very little resemblance between this book and Hunger Games other than there is a part of the plot where a group of young people are in a situation where they can end up trying to kill each other.

Here we have (another) post-apocalyptic world. The population is busily involved in trying to repair the world...repair the damage done in the "7 Stages of War". The population was left decimated (That's not to be taken literally, I actually think more than one in ten were killed) and society has pretty much had to be rebuilt from scratch. We're in North America and people are now living in colonies. The colonies are places where new populations are working on the said restoration.

"And" each year the best and brightest are pulled from each colony for a "chance" to get one of twenty slots at..."The University".

Of course when over a hundred candidates show up you need to reduce that pool of possible University students somehow...

I like the book. I've been thinking over my rating. I'd say the 4 star rating may not be my "tippity tip top" 4 but it's an enthusiastic one.

The book is good, the story is interesting (though with a few internal flaws, mostly in logic) and it does hold the interest. There's a fairly predictable but well handled secret that is part of the logical inconsistency of the story with our young hero being sent off to have a chance at University (her life long dream) along with 4 other of her classmates for "Testing" to see who get's one of the University slots, we're off.

I found the book to be fairly interesting from the opening lines and very interesting from the time the testing begins. I think readers will spot things before the "candidates" but that's only because "we" will go into the book looking for something.

There's one other glaring logical problem with this plot, but the main character notices it herself so I assume it is something the author plans to address in a future volume.

Anyway...as noted, I like the book and recommend the book. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,564 reviews263 followers
March 31, 2020
“The earth is resilient, but it’s hard to imagine a time when this place will be anything but a terrible reminder of what we as a people can do.”
― Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing

The Testing is another Dystopian book, part of a series, although I have just read the one. I did not enjoy it to much.

In this world, the story revolves around an Elite college, that some kids get into. It is a chance at a gr eat education in a world where daily struggles are to common. But students are vanishing at the school. Once one gets in..do they get out?

If I am making it seem like a horror novel it is not. This is pure Dystopian and that was one of the issues for me.

There was nothing I can say that was inherently wrong with The Testing. My main reason for not really getting into it, is it is to much like other books I have read which seems to be an issue more and more with this type of novel.

The testing has an interesting premise but the story delves into Hunger games territory and I’ve already read the whole Hunger games trilogy and didn’t have much of an interest reading such a similar book. It did not strike me as that original a story and the plot kind of left me cold. Again, this book is not bad. But I felt like I'd read this plot one to many times.

I did make it to the end but I did not read the follow up books. I think if you are a fan of Dystopian and don’t mind a book that is so similar to others, you may like it but for me it did not differentiate itself and I was growing tired as the book went on.
Profile Image for Crystal.
129 reviews27 followers
May 23, 2018
I liked the beginning here. For that reason
I feel like something more original could have come for the Main part of the story because it started out that way
The ending also kinda left me wondering how two more books have been written in this series, unless it’s an anthology, since it seems to be going in a cyclical direction. Unsure if I will continue series.
Profile Image for Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice).
1,147 reviews153 followers
January 1, 2019
Read for The YA Room's Throwback Bingo Challenge!

Challenge Square: Groups/Factions At War

T/W- Violence, Blood

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed The Testing. It gave me the same vibes that I got from reading The Hunger Games many years ago. Set in a world where groups of seventeen year olds, from across various towns get selected for 'The Testing', young girl Cia learns that failure simply isn't an option. She has to survive and succeed with all of the challenges that get thrown her way. It is quite a bloody read and at times was a little slow. But there was enough action and powerful moments that kept me reading until the final page. I would love to carry on with the trilogy!
Profile Image for Tessa Herondale~Carstairs.
206 reviews220 followers
June 4, 2020
This gets 3.75 stars. I was kind of unsatisfied with it.

The Testing follows a girl named Malencia 'Cia' Vale who was worked hard all her life to be chosen for The Testing. The Testing is a test (well duh) that the United Commonwealth, the coalition that arose after the Seven Stages War, uses to select a group of twenty people who will get to go to the University, and become future leaders of the country. Cia is delighted to be chosen for it, but she learns that it may have a darker side that is erased from the candidates' memories, and that she shouldn't trust anyone.

I think that's as far as I can get without spoiling. Now onto the spoiler filled part of the review. The bottom line is at the bottom if you don't want to be spoiled.

First off, Cia breaks rule number one (Don't trust anyone) in the literal first freaking hour of the freaking ride to the capital, Tosu City. She trusts Tomas. She tells him about her father and his nightmares. She tells him basically everything. And that's a whole lot of trust right there. So why did she do it?
My theory is that the author used Cia's trusty nature and her immediate trust in Tomas to move forward the romance, which, I have to tell you, is badly written. They're holding hands before anything real even happens in the book. I suppose you could say that the author says they danced at some school dance and made other girls jealous. But that backstory has so little substance that it seems very weird when they're just holding hands. If you didn't know already, I love me a good slow romance that takes a while to set it, maybe one (1) kiss in the first book, a couple of kisses in the second, and more in the third (if it's a trilogy). That is my idea of a well-written romance. It makes you want the characters to get together more than anything. As in, not this book. And declarations of love in the first book of a trilogy just pissed me off. I mean, really? Rushing much? I hated how they were holding hands in the first half of the book. I mean, author, make us want the romance before serving it to us on a silver platter! I didn't want, nor liked, the romance in this book.
That's not the entire reason why I didn't like this book all that much. Don't get me wrong, it was a really good book, which made me terrified at some parts, shocked at others, and wanting to read more and more, but it did have its flaws. For example, in the beginning what was annoying was that every sentence seemed to have a justification after it. If it brought in a new idea, it would justify it when it didn't need justifying. For example, (this didn't happen in the book, it's just the first thing I could think of) There were apples in the buffet. There were green and red apples. I mean, we get that there are apples, and we know that there are different kinds of apples, so one would assume that there would be green and red apples. By the way, if you didn't pick this up already, this was not in the book. Don't come yelling at me later. It's just an example I made up. But you get the idea.
Another thing that annoyed me was that Cia seemed to know how to do everything, and passed most of the book with minor problems. Her father taught her science, from what I picked up, and she knows plants well enough, and she's smart. Okay. But during the test with the wires, how did she know how to do everything right without problems? I don't believe that it was sheer luck that got her through that test. And she just knew to check the other guy's booklet with the questions in the third test. I mean, wasn't that all too convenient. Tomas gets impaled in the butt? Goody, she knows how to burn away flesh! They're chased by a pack of mutated wolves? Somehow Cia and Tomas can run away faster with their bikes. Her bike breaks? She somehow has all the tools, (wires, screws, and bolts, from page 283) to fashion a new bike that will hold her and Tomas. I mean, did I fall asleep during the part that explained where she got those tools from? Probably. And did her water purification tablets and pain relieving medicine never run out? Did she have an endless supply? I would like to know.
I was kind of disappointed in the ending, because Cia forgot everything, obviously, but I felt it could have been done better. I was instantly intrigued at the part from Zeen's point of view. I would like to continue the series, but that may take a while.

Bottom line: This book has a really good story, which I'm sure you'll like, if you have the patience. Or if you don't have a tendency to see all the flaws in a book. Both ways, I'd recommend giving this a try!
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