Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

 

Title: The Testing

Author:  Joelle Charbonneau

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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 in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student 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


Review:

When I first started reading The Testing back in April, I just couldn’t engage with the plot.  I set it aside, thinking that I just wasn’t in the mood for a dystopian adventure.  After a few months, I picked it back up, and I’m glad that I did.  Though the book is very reminiscent of Matched and The Hunger Games, I found it an engaging read in its own right – it just took me a while to figure that out.

Cia Vale has been accepted for Testing, and if she passes, she’ll be attending classes at the University.  This is a dream come true for her, and she has worked hard her entire life to earn a chance to go to the University.  She is bewildered and hurt when her father tells her she shouldn’t have been chosen, and she doesn’t believe him when he implies that there is something more sinister than just academic testing going on in the capital, Tosu City.  He tells her that he and her old teacher worked hard to ensure that none of the students from their small colony were accepted for The Testing.   Though his memories have been wiped of his own Testing experiences, he is plagued by nightmares of the ordeal, and he never wanted his children to suffer through the Test.  Cia dismisses his warnings at first, but as she begins her journey to Tosu City, things don’t add up, and she begins to believe her father is correct.  She soon realizes that his advice is something that she can no longer ignore.  Trust no one.

There are a few things about YA dystopian novels that I have a hard time buying into, and I think it’s because I have read so many now.  The first being – what is wrong with all of these adults?  The leaders of these bleak societies think nothing of their children murdering each other to get ahead in life.  Really?  The United Commonwealth has suffered the loss of countless citizens during a horrific period of war and environmental catastrophe, and they are willing to weed out the most cunning and brutal young adults to become the next leaders of the government?  Isn’t this part of the reason that the planet was inches away from total destruction?  There are 108 students in Cia’s Testing class.  108!  Only 20 will be allowed entrance to the University.  While we don’t know for certain what happens to the students who survive all four stages of the Test, but aren’t chosen for the Univesity, we do know what countless numbers of them were killed or murdered during the Tests.  It’s to the point now that I have to be in the correct frame of mind to enjoy stories that revolve around kids being victimized like this.  At least in The Hunger Games the brutality against most of the populace had a purpose, and that was to keep the downtrodden so frightened they would never rebel again.  In The Testing, the candidates who survive have their memories of the Tests wiped, so I’m confused about WHY all of these adults sit idly by while their charges slaughter each other.  These are the brightest and the best that their society has to offer.  I hope it’s explained in the next book, because that was the major stumbling point that kept me from completely enjoying this story.

What’s the second thing that drives me nuts? They talk about food. A lot.  More than I do, and I am a big foodie.  Reading these survival type stories makes me hungry. Except for the possum. Not so sure I would ever want to eat that.

I did love the in your face narrative.  Cia thinks, at first, that it’s a huge honor to vie for a place in the University.   She wants to help revitalize the country, which has been decimated by warfare.  Like the humans, all life in the Commonwealth teetered on the brink of extinction.  Water sources have been polluted and rendered undrinkable, animals have been mutated into scary monsters, and plant life struggled to survive in the poisoned ground.  Cia’s dedication to assisting with the healing of the land is one of her defining characteristics, and it’s an easy one to like.  It keeps her going, even when everything else has become a nightmare for her.  She also resists acting like an animal during the final, deadly stage of The Test.  She was raised to see the value in all life, and she has a hard time killing anything.  To give her a personal challenge, she is constantly threatened with death, so she must re-evaluate her personal ethics.  I loved this about the story, too.  Even though she is good and just, she doesn’t hesitate to defend herself or her friends.  She doesn’t sit around and wait for some guy to save her, either.  Most of the time, she is the one doing the saving.  I thought that Cia kicked butt, and I am curious to see what happens in the next book, when she is in, presumably, less harrowing  surroundings.

With interesting world-building and a heroine who is not afraid to take charge and control of her own destiny, The Testing is a hard book to put down.  I thought that the pacing of the 2nd half of the book was  much better than the first, and read most of it in one sitting.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book!

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Excerpt and Giveaway! Love Him or Leave Him by Sara Daniel

Please welcome Sara Daniel to the virtual offices!  She’s here to share an excerpt from her latest release, Love Him or Leave Him.  This is an Entangled Publishing release under their Bliss line.  After the excerpt, enter the awesome giveaway!

Excerpt – Love Him or Leave Him by Sara Daniel

“We’re creating a cocoa scientifically,” Becca explained. “We’ll record each ingredient used and the reasons why we picked it, as well as the reasons why we reject the others. We’ll also record our response to each flavor.”

Connor could handle a taste test. After all, he judged the Chili Cook Off each year. “And the audience is supposed to find this entertaining?”

“Hey, be thankful I saved you from boredom and you get to be up here doing the fun part.” She shook her head. “I can only imagine what people do for fun in real cities.”

“You don’t think this is real?” Connor asked.

“I don’t think our community is a fair representation of what the rest of the world is like. And really,” she teased, “would you want a chipped ceramic mug of brown liquid to rank at the top of your memorable life experiences?”

She pulled a tray of spices from her bag and arranged it between them. “Why don’t you taste the plain cocoa first, so we have a starting point?”

Connor dutifully lifted the steaming mug, trying not to be stung that he wouldn’t count as a memorable part of her life.

“Your response should include whether the smell and taste of each ingredient makes your partner feel more romantically inclined,” Pauline added to the group.

He nearly spewed his drink. He was supposed to not only admit, but rate the increase in his attraction to Becca?

“Good, you firmly established us as a zero on the romance scale.” She smacked him on the back. “That’s where I intend to stay. If you start moving up the scale, I will poison you.”

He pressed his lips closed to keep from smirking. It wouldn’t do to let her know her murderous threats made him feel more romantically inclined.

 

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Book Info:

Sometimes dreams are where you least expect them.

Connor O’Malley and Becca Sanders were once high school sweethearts, ripped apart by rumors in the small town of Kortville, Illinois. Connor left to join the military, and Becca stayed, waiting for her younger brother to graduate so she could live her dreams of traveling the world. But now that Connor’s back as the town sheriff, Becca finds herself struggling to resist the too-handsome man who once broke her heart.

Connor loves Kortville—its quaintness keeps at bay the painful memories of Afghanistan he’s sure make him unworthy of any woman, particularly the beautiful brunette he’s always secretly dreamed of a future with. But when a scandal rocks the town, suddenly Connor and Becca must trust in each other if they want to weather this storm…and come out on the other side of it together.

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About Sara:

I write what I love—irresistible romance, from sweet to erotic and everything in between. On the personal side, I’m a frazzled maid, chauffeur, and slave to my children. I was once a landlord of two uninvited squirrels. (The children’s book The Bravest Squirrel Ever by my alter-ego Sara Shafer is the squirrel’s fictionalized version of that experience!) I’m crazy about country music and the drama of NASCAR. And I have my very own happily-ever-after romance with my hero husband.

Follow my blog, like me on Facebook or email me for the latest updates on my books and writing projects or to debate the best race car drivers!

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