Cia Vale somehow survived the traumas recounted in The Testing and is now a sixteen-year-old freshman at the Tosu City University. What should be a regimented, even deadening year of class-work, however, soon becomes something far more threatening when Cia begins to suspect that the college has hidden agendas. An empathetic protagonist; a series worth pursuing.
Charbonneau continues the trilogy that began with The Testing with this densely plotted follow-up, a tense, paranoid story in which layers of treachery, deceit, and danger are peeled away one by one. Having survived the lethal Testing, which forces the best and brightest of a ravaged and rebuilding future America to fight for survival, and having completed her initial courses at the University in Tosu City, Cia Vale is ready to discover what field of study she’ll be assigned. Like all survivors, her memories of the Testing have been wiped, but she retains vague impressions of the past and a certainty that things are not what they seem. Before she can settle into the punishing workload, she must endure the Induction, a weeklong series of tests and challenges, knowing that any mistake can be fatal. Cia struggles to do the right thing when she uncovers a conspiracy against the government and a rebellion in the making. Charbonneau makes excellent use of her dystopian theme in a twisty story that hits its mark. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Fast-paced and full of crosses and double-crosses, right to the cliffhanger ending." —Booklist
"A tense, paranoid story in which layers of treachery, deceit, and danger are peeled away one by one. . . . Charbonneau makes excellent use of her dystopian theme in a twisty story that hits its mark." —Publishers Weekly
"[A] compelling mix of new lies, double crosses, and increasingly menacing government figures focused on destroying Cia." —Kirkus
"Fans of The Testing will be thrilled with this new installment and will be anxiously waiting for the story's conclusion." —School Library Journal "Charbonneau has created an elegantly organized plot that will keep the reader engaged and wondering how this richly layered plot will unfold. . . . The tension and conflict will have readers at the edge of their seats as the imagery and complexities of the characters and plot design are exposed." —VOYA
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Susan Redman-Parodi
This is the second book in the series The Testing, in which sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was selected by the government to undergo a series of rigorous examinations in order to be selected as a candidate for higher education. Cia and her classmateand love interestTomas, have both passed these excruciating assessments and have been placed in the university to pursue their assigned paths, all in an effort to revitalize a ravaged, postwar civilization. Though she and Tomas have overcome the odds to succeed together, the second book positions her to realize that her destiny in this quest may leave her acting alone. Despite having her memory of the testing wiped clean by government officials, Cia is haunted by a fragmented recollection of what she has endured, sparking a distrust for those who occupy power in government and a fervor to protect the future of the Commonwealth. Realizing this will make her vulnerable to a system she has been warned to distrust, she guards these memories and seeks to uncover the truth behind them. Her persistence to expose the nature of the government’s corruption puts her on a dangerous path, which unfolds to reveal deep-rooted conspiracy relentlessly guarded by those in power. Cia’s plan to uncover the truth and identify who can be trusted may be jeopardizing all she holds sacred. Filled with intrigue and suspense, this is a stellar second book in a promising dystopian series. Charbonneau has created an elegantly organized plot that will keep the reader engaged and wondering how this richly layered plot will unfold. This novel surpasses expectations and leaves other comparative novels behind as it forges new paths to a futuristic, alternate world filled with corruption and conspiracy. The tension and conflict will have readers at the edge of their seats as the imagery and complexities of the characters and plot design are exposed. Reviewer: Susan Redman-Parodi; Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—In this sequel to The Testing (Houghton Harcourt, 2013), Cia is drawn deeper into the political machinations of Tosu City as she enters the University. She is accepted into the Government course of study, much to her disappointment. Now, joined by students from the City who did not have to endure the Testing, she must go through a hazing process that forces her to once again rely on her wits to survive. Cia must win an internship to continue on at the University; the alternative will be her death. Her love for Tomas takes a backseat in the narrative to make way for descriptions of how the factions are fighting for control of the capital and the Testing. The action is fast paced and the story line compelling. Fans won't have time to wonder why those who run the Testing place such a low value on the lives of their teen charges or why parents have asked so few questions about where their children end up. Readers will root for the likable and capable heroine. While the adults' motives are suspect and often inexplicable, Cia struggles to make good decisions, both ethically and intellectually. Fans of The Testing will be thrilled with this new installment and will be anxiously waiting for the story's conclusion.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
Having survived the gladiatorial university entrance exam in The Testing (2013), Cia and her childhood friends begin studying to become leading rebuilders of their post-apocalyptic society. Cia's demanding academic schedule is punctuated by a series of inventive and harrowing hazing challenges that deliver a combination of physical and psychological dangers that are reminiscent of The Testing. Success (and survival) again requires physical strength, mental clarity and recall of academic information. Unsurprisingly, some of Cia's fellow students resent her consistently strong performances and her steady refusal to win by sacrificing others. The school's cutthroat culture breeds opportunities for betrayal, and Cia must constantly be wary, even of offers of assistance. However, because her potential enemies are basically strangers, the prospect of betrayal is less traumatizing than her experience during The Testing, when she suspected her childhood friends of treachery and violence. In fact, returning readers anticipating a fiery confrontation among Cia, Tomas and Will may be disappointed to find these previous conflicts largely relegated to the background. Regardless, a charged atmosphere still results from the compelling mix of new lies, double crosses and increasingly menacing government figures focused on destroying Cia. Though this novel feels at times a bit too much like an extended setup for the final installment, shocking last-minute revelations about a potential rebellion against the government will leave many readers eagerly anticipating the series conclusion. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)
Read an Excerpt
I slide the cool material of my shirt over the five long, jagged scars on my arm and examine myself in the reflector. Blue, long-sleeved tunic. Gray pants. Silver bracelet with a single star. The star and the smudges of fatigue under my eyes mark me as an entry-level University student. My fellow classmates show similar signs of having studied late into the night for today. After six months of taking the same preliminary classes, all twenty of us will be tested and sorted into the fields of study that will serve as the focus for the rest of our lives.
My chest tightens. I used to enjoy taking tests. I liked proving that I had learned. That I had worked hard. That I was smart. But now I am not sure what is real or what the consequences of a wrong answer will be. While my classmates are concerned about the test affecting the years ahead, I worry I will not survive the day.
Normally, I pull my hair back into a thick dark knot in order to keep it out of my way. Today, I decide to leave it down. Perhaps the long waves will hide the evidence of months of restless nights. If not, maybe the cold compresses my mother taught me to apply to my eyes will help.
A wave of longing crashes over me at the thought of my mother. While contact between University students and their families is not expressly forbidden, neither is it encouraged. Most students I know have not heard a word from their loved ones back home. I have been fortunate. A Tosu official has been willing to pass along small bits of communication from my parents and four older brothers. They are well. My father and my oldest brother, Zeen, are creating a new fertilizer to help plants grow faster. My second oldest brother, Hamin, is engaged. He and his soon-to-be wife will be married next spring. His decision to marry has prompted our mother to look for wives for Zeen and my twin brothers, Hart and Win. So far, her efforts have been in vain.
Aside from my family, one other person has managed to get news to me. My best friend, Daileen, assures me she’s studying hard and is currently first in her class. Her teacher has hinted Daileen might be chosen for The Testing this year. She is keeping her fingers crossed that she will join me in Tosu City. I am hoping she will fail. I want her to stay in a place where the answers to questions make sense. Where I know she will be safe.
A knock at the door makes me jump. “Hey, Cia. Are you ready? We don’t want to be late.” Stacia’s right. Those who arrive late will not be allowed to take the exam. What that means for the future is unclear, but none of us wants to find out.
“I’ll be ready in a minute,” I yell as I kneel next to the foot of the bed and slide my hand between the bed frame and the mattress. My fingers search until they find the lump that makes me sigh with relief. My brother Zeen’s Transit Communicator is still safe, as are the secrets it holds.
Months ago, I discovered the symbol I carved into the device to help lead me to the recorder and the confidences stored inside. When I finished listening to words I had no recollection of speaking, I cut open the mattress and hid the Communicator inside. Week after week, month after month, I tried to pretend that what the device revealed isn’t real. After all, haven’t I seen evidence every day that my fellow students are good people? That the professors and administrators working to prepare us for our futures want us to succeed? Some of them are standoffish. Others arrogant. None of the students or educators is perfect, but who is? No matter their flaws, I don’t want to believe any are capable of the whispered, sometimes hard to make out words inside the recorder.
“Cia.” Stacia’s voice pulls me from my thoughts. “We have to get going.”
“Right. Sorry.” I slip into my coat, hoist my University bag onto my shoulder, and turn my back on my questions about the past. Those will have to wait. For now, I need to concentrate on my future.
Stacia frowns as I step into the hall. Her dark blond hair is pulled back into a sleek ponytail, making her angular features look sharper than usual. “What took you so long? We’re going to be the last ones to arrive.”
“Which will make everyone nervous,” I quip. “They’ll wonder why we didn’t feel the need to get there early and compare notes with everyone else.”
Stacia’s eyes narrow as she nods. “You’re right. I love psyching out the competition.”
I hate it. My parents taught me to value fair play over all else.
Stacia doesn’t notice my discomfort as we trek past healthy trees, thriving grass, and numerous academic structures. Not that she would say anything if she did. Stacia isn’t one for girl talk or idle chatter. At first her silences challenged me to bring her out of her shell, as I used to do for my best friend from Five Lakes. Now, with so many questions on my mind, I am grateful for the quiet company.
I wave at a couple of older students as they walk by. As always, they ignore us. After today, the upperclassmen assigned to the same field of study will act as our guides. Until then, they pretend we don’t exist. Most of my classmates have taken to ignoring them back, but I can’t. My upbringing is too strong not to be polite.
“Ha. I should have known he’d be waiting for us.” Stacia rolls her eyes and then laughs. “I’d bet my family’s compensation money that he hovered around you during The Testing, too. Too bad I’ll never know if I’d win that bet.”
My heart skips as I spot Tomas Endress standing near the front door of the four-story red and white brick Early Studies building. His dark hair blows in the late-winter breeze. A University bag is slung carelessly over his shoulder. His gray eyes and dimpled smile are focused squarely on me as he waves and comes bounding down the steps. Tomas and I have known each other all our lives, but in the last couple months, we’ve grown closer than I dreamed possible back home. When Tomas is with me, I feel smarter. More confident. And terrified that everything I think I know and admire about him is a lie.
Stacia rolls her eyes as Tomas kisses my cheek and entwines his fingers with mine. “I was starting to get worried about you. The test starts in ten minutes.”
“Cia and I didn’t feel the need to get here early and cram like everyone else. We’re totally prepared. Right, Cia?” Stacia tosses her blond ponytail and shoots me one of her rare smiles.
“Right,” I say with more conviction than I feel. Yes, I have studied hard for this test, but the whispered words on the Transit Communicator make me doubt I could ever fully prepare for what is to come.
Not for the first time, I wish my father were here to talk to me. Almost three decades ago, he attended the University. Growing up, I asked hundreds of questions about his time here. Rarely did he answer them. Back then, I assumed his silence was to keep my brothers and me from feeling pressure to follow in his footsteps. Now I’m forced to wonder if something more sinister lay behind his secrecy.
There is only one way to find out.
The three of us climb the steps. When we reach the front door, Tomas stops and asks for a moment alone with me. Stacia sighs, warns me not to be late, and stalks inside. When she’s out of sight, Tomas brushes a hair off my forehead and peers into my eyes. “Did you sleep at all last night?”
“Some.” Although with sleep comes the nightmares that hover just out of reach when I wake. “Don’t worry. Being your study partner means I can answer questions no matter how tired I am.”
While other students used their free time to relax or explore the United Commonwealth capital, Tosu City, Tomas and I spent all our spare moments with our books under a tree or in the library when the cold weather drove us inside. Most of our classmates assumed Tomas and I pretended to study in order to be alone. They don’t understand my fear of what might happen if I do not pass this exam.
Tomas gives my hand a squeeze. “Things will get easier once we’ve been given our designated areas of study. You’re a shoo-in for Mechanical Engineering.”
“Let’s hope you’re right.” I smile. “While I’d love to work with you, the idea of being assigned Biological Engineering scares the hell out of me.” My father and brothers are geniuses at coaxing plants to thrive in the war-scarred earth. Revitalizing the earth is an important job. One I admire. I might even be happy to consider it, if I didn’t kill every plant I touched.
“Come on.” Tomas brushes a light kiss on my lips and tugs me toward the steps. “Let’s show them how smart students from Five Lakes are.”
The hallway of the Early Studies building is dim. Only the sunshine that creeps in from the glass panes in the front door lights our way. Tosu City has strict laws governing electricity usage. While the production and storage of electricity are more robust than in Five Lakes, conservation is encouraged. During the daytime, the University only directs electricity to labs or classrooms that require extra light for the day’s lesson. At night, however, the University has a much higher allotment of power than the rest of the city.
The second-floor examination room is well illuminated in honor of today’s test. The lights make it easy to see the tension etched in my classmates’ faces as they sit behind black desks, poring over their notes, hoping to cram one last fact that could make the difference between the futures they want and whatever else our professors might decide.
One final student arrives. I take a seat at an empty desk in the back. Tomas slides into the desk to the right of mine. I put my bag on the floor and glance around the room. Twenty of us. Thirteen boys. Seven girls. The future leaders of the United Commonwealth.
I am about to wish Tomas luck when Professor Lee arrives. For the past several months, Professor Lee has served as our history instructor. While most of the University teachers wear sober expressions, Professor Lee has kind eyes and a warm smile, which is why he’s my favorite. Today, instead of the faded brown jacket he favors, our instructor is wearing a ceremonial purple United Commonwealth jumpsuit. The room goes silent as Professor Lee walks up and down the rows of desks. On each desk he drops a booklet of paper and a yellow pencil. I run my hand over the image in the corner of the booklet’s cover. A lightning bolt. My symbol. Given to me in The Testing.
Professor Lee asks us not to open the booklet until further instruction is given. The booklet is thick. Back at Five Lakes, paper is harder to come by, so we use it sparingly and make sure to recycle every page when we are done. Here in Tosu City, learning takes priority over rationing.
My fingers toy with the pencil, rolling it back and forth across the black desk surface. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Tomas watching me with a concerned expression. Suddenly, I’m in a different room. Eight students. A different male official dressed in ceremonial male purple. Eight black desks. Bright white walls instead of gray. Six boys. Only two girls in the room, one of whom is me. Tomas gives me the same worried look as I finger a pencil. The booklet in front of me is marked with the same lightning bolt, only this time, it is surrounded by an eight-pointed star. My symbol surrounded by the symbol of my group for The Testing.
The room in my memory disappears as Professor Lee’s deep voice announces, “Congratulations on completing the basic studies required for all University students. Today’s test, combined with evaluations from your professors, will determine which field of study your skills are best suited for. Tomorrow, a list will be posted with your test results, as well as which field of study you have been directed into: Education, Biological Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Medicine, or Government. All five fields of study are necessary to continue the revitalization of our land, our technology, and our citizens. While each of you has a preferred choice, we ask you to trust us to slot you into the career path that best suits the needs of the country. Do not attempt to guess which questions on the examination affect direction into a specific field of study. Any students with questionable test results will be given a failing grade and Redirected from the University student roster.”
Professor Lee scans the room to make sure the impact of his words is felt. I can hear my heart hammer in the silence.
Finally, he continues. “Answer each question to the best of your ability. Do not give answers beyond the scope of the question. We are interested in learning not only how much you know but how well you comprehend the question being asked. Answers that go beyond the confines of the question will negatively affect your test results.”
I swallow hard and wonder what the negative effect might be. A lowered score or something more?
“You will have eight hours to complete this examination. If you need a break for food, water, or to relieve yourself, please raise your hand. A University official will escort you to the break room. If at any time you exit this room, you are not to leave the building or speak to anyone other than your escort. Either action will result in a failing grade and Redirection from the University. When you have completed the examination, raise the test booklet. I will collect the booklet and escort you to the door. What you do after that is up to you.” He gives us a knowing smile before pushing a button on the wall behind him.