Series: The Testing #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Date Published: June 4, 2013
Description: 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.
This is a pretty interesting dystopia. The main character is a really smart and cool chick. She comes from a really smart family during a time when most of the Earth is destroyed and people are doing their best to engineer new technology to make water drinkable, crops able to grow, etc. Cia is one of the first people to be selected for the Testing from her town in quite a few years, and this seems to be due to a new leader in town. The testing is an examination where 20 of the hundreds of people being tested go on to University. Her father was selected for and passed the Testing when he was Cia’s age, and based on his nightmares but lack of memory from the ordeal, tells his daughter not to trust anyone. We soon learn why the former person responsible for recommending graduating students for the testing refused to select anyone. In this Testing, wrong answers are punished. As the exam progresses, more students disappear.
This plot is pretty fast-paced since the majority takes place during the testing. The testing consists of four parts, and at each one we get to see just how horrible the consequences are for a wrong answer, and you see students turn on each other in order to secure their pass. This dystopian world is set up well and is believable. The Earth has been all but destroyed and everything is dangerous, from the water to the mutated wildlife. The United Commonwealth has organized society into groups where the best and the brightest have the opportunity to go University and learn how to make the world livable again. But spots are limited, and apparently the Commonwealth is looking for not just the brightest but the most cunning and cut-throat. I’ve seen this compared to the Hunger Games quite a bit, so I thought I would touch on that issue. Sure, it is a dystopian world, and the survival part of the exams sort of parallels the spirit of the Games. But, the reason and the motivation for the Testing are different, and the overall direction the novel takes is pretty unique. Sure some students decide to take out their competition outright, but in the earlier parts of the testing, they try to outsmart one another. I liked how intelligent and educated the characters are.
Some things I didn’t quite like or didn’t feel were as believable were just how good Cia was at everything. She always knew the answers or figured out when something wasn’t right. She was prepared for every situation even though she didn’t know what was going to happen (for example, she packed practical and comfortable clothes while the other girls packed dresses and heels). I also don’t know why she’s all that special (other than being our main character) to get special treatment. Why did the grey-haired man choose to help her? We don’t know if he helped anyone else. Also, the relationship between Cia and Tomas seemed to come from nowhere. Yes, they are from the same town and maybe there was a spark before (so it wasn’t instalove), but the development didn’t seem believable to me.
Check out the FREE prequel, called The Testing Guide.
Check out the Facebook page.