Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing, #1
Release date: June 4th 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin BfC
Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
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.
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 and mutated humans. 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 monsters 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 towards the end.
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 the characters 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.