It’s the distant future, and the United States has been ravaged by war. The government has established colonies around the country to clean up the ensuing destruction and to engineer plants that can survive the harsh environments of the post-war landscape. Malencia Vale, known as Cia to her friends, is about to graduate from high school in Five Lakes Colony, and what she wants most is to be chosen for the Testing. This is where we start at the beginning of Joelle Charbonneau's dystopian YA novel The Testing.
The actual "Testing" that the title refers to is as ominous as it sounds. On its surface, it’s a program that is designed to pick out the best and brightest, to cultivate future leaders. Sounds harmless, right? Well, this is a dystopian novel, and you should know by now that there’s nothing this genre loves more than conspiracies and secrets, and The Testing isn’t any different in that respect. Cia isn’t actually sure what she might face, but she knows it probably won’t be good.
In a genre that’s crammed with YA novels (with female main characters), the question is does The Testing stand out? The answer is more complicated than the simple question, but put succinctly: both yes and no.
The novel’s been compared to The Hunger Games, for good reason. It’s definitely got a survival-of-the-fittest, no-holds-barred competition angle from the beginning, and the last half of The Testing is definitely Hunger Games-esque. But in some ways, it also reminded us of Divergent, Veronica Roth’s YA-dystopian hit novel that’s now also being turned into a movie. There are factions in this novel, and Cia isn’t sure who she can trust.
So, maybe The Testing isn’t the most unique YA dystopian you’ll come across. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading; in fact, it’s quite an enjoyable novel. Charbonneau builds an interesting premise, and despite the fact that Cia is a little too skilled to be believable (seriously, the things she can do are not realistic), she’s a solid main character. Readers will enjoy getting to know her.
The romance (yes, there’s always a romance) is actually very well done. It develops naturally, a by-product of Cia’s inability to trust those around her, and it’s sweet. Charbonneau did a great job keeping the romance part of the plotline without making it the center of the story. Cia’s got a good head on her shoulders, which is always refreshing in the realm of YA dystopias.
Charbonneau also keeps the suspense and mystery surrounding the plot high, which makes for a fun read. She provides twists and turns that are difficult to see coming and ends the novel with a real bang. It would be difficult to read The Testing and not come back for the sequel, as it’s quite the cliffhanger.
So, to make a long story short, while The Testing isn’t the most unique YA dystopian novel you’ll come across, it’s still worth reading. Cia’s a worthy addition to the teenage female heroine set, and we’re looking forward to reading the sequel as soon as it’s released.
What's your favorite recent dystopian YA novel?