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The Testing (The Testing Trilogy Series #1)

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

47 out of 50 people found this review helpful.

Whenever a book becomes hugely popular, there are bound to be a

Whenever a book becomes hugely popular, there are bound to be a lot of copy cat books that occur. With the huge success of The Hunger Games, the market has been inundated with dystopian books targeted to the Young Adult market. In that respect, The Testing by Joelle Cha...
Whenever a book becomes hugely popular, there are bound to be a lot of copy cat books that occur. With the huge success of The Hunger Games, the market has been inundated with dystopian books targeted to the Young Adult market. In that respect, The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau is no different from the rest. It is definitely a book based on the very successful formula used in the Hunger Games trilogy. There are, however, some differences. These differences, coupled with the author's obvious talent for writing, make this one copy cat that is well worth the read. 

The Seven Stages War has left the Earth devastated. It is in this environment the the new United Commonwealth finds itself trying to survive. To meet this goal, the UC needs to discover the best and the brightest that its various colonies have to offer. Their talents and skills, along with a coveted education at The University, are needed to rebuild the Earth. To aid this process, the government of the UC has devised The Testing. 

Like the Hunger Games and others, the story in The Testing relies on Young Adult protagonists who are thrown into a do or die situation which they must navigate by using their skills and intellect. Another similarity to most of the books of this type, their is romantic interest between some of the characters. The most important similarities to the Hunger Games, though, is the author's ability to craft characters that the reader can identify with. People that you want to win and survive. In addition, the author's ability to tell the story in an engrossing, intriguing way that draws the reader in is another similarity. 

To me, though, the similarities that this book had to the others, especially the Hunger Games, were less important than what it had that its differences. Although survival is a big part of this story, it is not the only attribute that is important. For example, I really liked the way that The Testing was structured. I found the author's use of testing environment that looked at the participant's academics, decision making abilities, problem solving skills, and team work skills, set this story apart. The fact that the characters needed more to accomplish their goals than just survival skills was more to my liking. In addition, I really liked the way that the author included the understanding of several scientific abilities in the main characters arsenal, and the fact that they were able to discuss these abilities amongst themselves. There were some other differences that I particularly liked as well, but most of them were things that would spoil the story if I listed them. All of these differences, though, went a long way toward allowing me to feel that this story had its own identity. 

Even though I knew where this book was heading, could guess most of the twists, and was not surprised by any of the situations, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. In fact, I found it as enjoyable as the Hunger Games and think that the fact that the stories are so similar one of the things that I particularly enjoyed. Reading this story felt like visiting an old friend, but yet there was plenty to discover at the same time. I give it 4 stars. 

posted by lsmeadows on June 5, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

I want to thank Houghton Mifflin Children's Books for sending me

I want to thank Houghton Mifflin Children's Books for sending me a copy of this book to read and give an honest review. I had received a copy on Net Galley but was unable to read it and the publisher was nice enough to send me a hard copy! Receiving this book for free h...
I want to thank Houghton Mifflin Children's Books for sending me a copy of this book to read and give an honest review. I had received a copy on Net Galley but was unable to read it and the publisher was nice enough to send me a hard copy! Receiving this book for free has in no way influenced my opinion or review.

Blurb from Goodreads:
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.

So, who wouldn't want to try a book that is billed as the next Hunger Games? I loved The Hunger Games, so I jumped at the chance to give this one a try. Even read the blurb of this one, which I usually don't do, to see what it was all about. I have to say the concept really intrigued me for sure. I was really excited to finally get into another dystopian, as I haven't read one that has truly pulled me in since The Hunger Games.

The cover of this book is very simple. Once you read it, you understand what is pictured. I understand the want to go with something simple, but I feel like there could have been a bit more to it. It suits the book fairly well but I really would have liked more.

I will tell you now that if you are looking for a book that very much mimics The Hunger Games, this is it. It is eerily similar to a fault, to be honest. The characters names are different, but the concept of children fighting for survival and being pitted against each other rings throughout the book. I was actually a bit disappointed in the fact that there really wasn't much of a difference and truly wonder if the author has gotten her ideas straight from those books.There is even a scene where the main character climbs into a tree to sleep; certainly I pictured Katniss in my mind (from both the book and movie) when this scene occurred!

Malencia Vale (Cia) is an interesting enough character. She's fairly strong and definitely resilient. And she shows the smarts that are needed to be part of the testing. But unlike Katniss she wants to be chosen for the testing believing the testing will help her advance to university where she will learn to heal her broken world. Of course the corrupt government has other ideas, though we are never told their true reasoning behind the testing. We do know they want to find the most fit candidates to attend the University and help heal the destruction that has occurred due to the past wars. But the underlying tone, which Cia quickly picks up on, is that there is more to it then they are telling her. She, however, doesn't try to figure out what it is. I do understand that her will is more to survive so she can cross the finish line, but it just doesn't seem like she even cares to try and figure out what lies beneath the government's plan.
Tomas Endress, well, he seems like he's hiding something from the beginning. I just didn't trust him. And, while he and Cia have some sort of history having grown up together, their attraction seems kind of forced and doesn't evolve as I would like. The relationship also seems almost out of place in the landscape Charbonneau paints. I can't picture what Tomas looks like in my mind, which drives me bonkers. I know he has a dimple, but that is all I can honestly remember after having read the entire book with him in most of the scenes! He isn't someone I would remember in the future, nothing about him stands out and makes me want to remember him, either.
As for the supporting characters, they seem to just be there. Again, I feel no connection with any of them. I don't feel any emotion for them at all. And I have no idea what any of them truly looks like. I would have also liked to see more about the relationship between Cia and her brothers. I thought for sure, after reading the prequel, that we would get a bit more about Zeen (her oldest brother) and why it is that he and Cia are so close. But I don't really get anything at all about their relationship. And he actually disappears during what I would have thought would be the most important time for Charbonneau to have him in the book. I can tell that Cia has a good repore with her father. He trusts her and reveals secrets to her he feels she is sure to keep. This is the only relationship in the book that truly struck my interest.

So, as you can tell, I wan't completely thrilled with the cast of this book. I will tell you why I could not connect with them: this book is almost all narration from the main character's point of view. I understand the need to build a world, but Charbonneau has long paragraphs of narrative that completely take me out of the story. There is barely any dialogue between characters. This caused my inability to understand their relationships with one another. Everything I learn about them is from Cia's POV. I really would have liked to see them through dialogue and interaction. But it just was not there. When dialogue does appear, for the most part it is short and quipped, which would not be so bad except it would maybe consist of three or four lines before once again going back into long narratives from the MC's POV. 

Another point of contention was the speeches that were made by the governmental officials They were LONG. It totally took me out of the story. I actually had a very hard time finishing some of them and would often have to back track to understand what the character was talking about. It was very distracting.

Remember the kids in The Hunger Games traveled by trains to Capital City? Well in The Testing it is a smaller group of kids traveling in some kind of hover craft type vehicle on their way to the capital city. Again, the similarity is still there. As if there is a cookie cutter outline and Charbonneau has taken it and added her ideas.

And I'm not feeling the total dystopian landscape that really needs to exist to understand how the people might be suffering. The children get schooling, everyone seems to be well fed, they are not dirty, they live well enough and people seem to have jobs. I just don't get how the destruction has decimated these people's lives.

So, these kids are thrown into a race to a finish line, meeting up with each other along the way, and often getting into violent confrontations. Yup, certainly reminded me of The Hunger Games. However, in The Hunger Games, the characters had reason to be violent and even kill one another. The Testing officials tell the candidates whoever makes it back will be interviewed for their final admission to university. They really don't give the candidates much of a reason to be killing each other. Sure, by offing their competition there are less of them to finish thus decreasing the risk of not being chosen for university. However, I just didn't feel like there was enough reason for them to be picking each other off. 

Finally, and I cannot say this enough, there are barely any specifics given in this story. It just kind of chugs along as the kids move through the barren dystopian landscape and try to survive. Since there are no real relationships formed, we hardly get an idea of their fear or any other emotion

posted by Brooke-The-Cover-Contessa on July 4, 2013

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