Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Testing (Testing #1)

The Testing (Testing #1)
Joelle Charbonneau
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
$17.99, Hardcover

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Action
Age: 12+
Description: Malencia “Cia” Vale is excited and nervous for graduation day. Her entire Five Lakes Colony is celebrating and wondering, with bated breath, if anyone will be chosen for The Testing. The Testing is a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest graduating students from all the Colonies and gives them a chance to earn their way into university where they will become the possible future leaders of their world which is slowly revitalizing itself after a huge war almost destroyed civilization. Cia has been working all her life in the hopes of being accepted to The Testing. However, no one from Five Lakes has been invited in a long time. So she is very surprised when not only she but a few other classmates end up making the grade. As Cia prepares to leave her life and all she knows behind (candidates never go back to their hometowns) she is surprised to learn from her father the dark truth about the program. He was accepted when he graduated high school and he tells her of nightmarish memories he remembers—he is pretty sure they wipe the memories of all participants who pass. He warns her to trust no one. Armed with that knowledge, she heads off to Tosu City to find what future awaits her in The Testing. What she isn’t expected to find is lots of secrecy, lies, and some students who will purposely kill for a spot in the class who passes.
Opinion: As my teens who have read the ARC have said, The Testing is going to be the new Hunger Games and, for me personally, I think it is even better. I have to admit (even though it is darn near blasphemous in the library world) that I didn’t really like the Hunger Games. I felt it was a rehash of Battle Royale which was infinitely better in many ways. In my opinion Katniss isn’t really a strong female character—she is just a figurehead for a movement. This book has way more action and combines the elements of trying to survive the Testing itself and survive other classmates who are out to eliminate the competition. Cia is a strong character. She is smart and resourceful. Being interested in mechanical things she is able to outthink a lot of her classmates and she can see a few steps ahead to stay out of harm’s way or see possible sabotage. I like the element of secrecy surrounding the whole process of The Testing. This book is going to be one of the next big things. They also seem like they are going to market it heavily as after we received the ARCs we got a second package with a new ARC (with a preview chapter of the second book) along with bracelets, tattoos, and a shirt.

Here’s what some of my teens had to say:

Becca, 13, says, “The Testing is a look into a possible future world where your only hope of making it to college is to do well in school and be invited to participate in the Testing at graduation. For fans of The Hunger Games and No Child’s Game. The most compelling part was hearing her discover the other competitors’ secrets as I found them out a step ahead of her or sometimes a step behind her! The only disappointing part was when she lost her memories. Hopefully the recording she made and discovers at the end of the book will help her remember in the sequel. I loved it!”

Isaac, 15, says, “Give The Testing to fans of The Hunger Games who are dying for the next big thing. Cia lives in a world in which the only way to really make a name for yourself is to graduate from high school and be invited to The Testing, an exclusive academy where students are tested on all types of knowledge and skills to see who can move on to university. Unlike The Hunger Games where the teens fought to be the last one alive, the characters in The Testing are fighting to be saved. I liked the cover and I think it reflected the book well. I like how Cia’s bracelet was on the cover. When I first picked up the book I didn’t know what the thing (that looked like a watch) was but then I realized its importance as I kept reading. The most compelling aspect was the teens’ struggle for survival. I was not disappointed. It is evil in an ARC to publish the names, release dates, and a description of the sequels when they are so far away!”

Haley, 17, says, “The Testing is an interesting take on a future world where, upon graduation, students hope they will be picked for The Testing, a government program that will select the brightest graduates who show potential for becoming future leaders in this post-apocalyptic world. Cia is chosen this year but the excitement soon dies when her father warns her of the experiences he faced when he was chosen. Cia must trust no one if she hopes to come back alive. If you enjoy The Hunger Games you’ll love this new series.I like that the image on the cover is like the bracelet mentioned in the book. However, I didn’t even realize that’s what it was until I was writing this review. For some reason I thought it was a watch and didn’t understand it for a second until I read this question and it clicked in my brain. I like the simplicity of the cover and felt it reflected the contents. The most compelling aspect of the book was the struggle of high school graduates to hope to complete in The Testing in order to go on to college and all the shady dealings going on in the background (mind erasing, etc.). I really enjoyed this series opener. I was not disappointed with anything. Maybe the horrible ad in the back advertising not only the second book in the series but the third as well. I can’t wait that long!!!”

*Thanks to Amanda Barsuhn at Houghton Mifflin for providing an ARC of this title for the YA Galley Group project!*

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