Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau [Review]

This review may contain spoilers. 

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books
Series: The Testing #1
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Pages: 336
Rating: ★★


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.


During the book I made some notes about similarities between the Hunger Games and The Testing.

The Hunger Games vs The Testing:

Districts - Colonies
Hunger Games - Testing
Peeta - Tomas 
Cato - Roman
Haymitch - Michal
Katniss - Cia
President Snow - Dr. Barnes
Arena - Stage 4

They both have mutated creepy animals roaming in the arena, there are both people chosen from districts/colonies for the testing/games. Both books have a boy who has had a crush on a girl for ages and finally decides to move in in the games/testing, after he is wounded and the girl is at first trying to deny the crush. Both protagonists are extremely good at survival.

There are too many similarities to say it's just a coincidence. It really seems like the author picked the concept of the Hunger Games and tried to make it her own, without actually plagiarizing anything. Sometimes this idea-picking works out great and it makes a wonderful book, but this book is definitely not better than The Hunger Games and I found myself constantly comparing the two books. The ideas in this book are just a lot more illogical and less well-developed. I know most ideas in books aren't creative and unique anymore, but an author at least has to try to come up with something of his own.

I'm not saying this directly made it a bad book, but it won't get a lot of stars in the end because of it.

The book also lacked action. Most of the book was build-up to the Testing and the first three parts of the Testing, which consisted of written tests. Even in the fourth stage, which was the arena survival/fight to the death part, wasn't really exciting at any point. Everything was resolved fairly easy by both Cia and Tomas and there wasn't an epic climax of any sort. It wasn't exactly boring, but I'd have loved to see some more action.

I could not really relate to any of the characters. Cia was just too smart and too good at everything to be realistic and her character was a bit boring. Tomas seemed like a very nice guy, a bit too much actually, that's why I found him suspicious from the beginning. That made him an unlikeable character and love interest. I did like his twist, and I am curious to see how that works out. The other characters in the book had no development and were just flat. They didn't really add much to the story. The only character I did find interesting was Will. He had much depth in his character and I thought he'd make a better love interest until the end of the book. But his twist made him even more interesting.

There was no real build-up to Cia and Tomas' relationship, it was unrealistic. They instantly became close after being chosen for the Testing, while they never even talked before. Tomas apparently had a crush on Cia (without apparent reason), never acted on it , until they were alone in the arena. Cia was constantly denying he had a crush on her and did not seem to return the crush. Then they kissed and they suddenly were in love.. The whole relationship just seemed forced and I did not sense any chemistry between them.

Some things did not really make sense in the book. Why would they kill most of the smart people in a still rebuilding country? Why would a future leader/ University attendee need to be able to survive a deadly arena? How did Cia know all that stuff about survival, she was just a high school student? Cia took an antidote to the memory-wipe medicine, why did she still forget?

I did like that the book had a few unexpected twists. From Cia's father's warning the reader knew he could not trust anyone, but a few characters really surprised me in the end and the ending itself was unpredictable to me.

The world-building was not really detailed. We know America was destroyed by war and colonies came in its place. But we don't get details about the other colonies, how the rebuilding went and the whole war was pretty confusing, since we only got answers via stupid test questions. The post-apocalyptic theme of the book was just not believable, since it was never really explained.

Okay, my review seems very negative, but it wasn't really that bad of a book. It's just hard to stay positive when you start comparing it to the Hunger Games and it's just less good on all points. If I hadn't read The Hunger Games this review would probably have been pretty positive.
So if you already read THG, I wouldn't recommend this book to you and if you haven't, give it a try and read THG after that if you liked it.

Stars: 3 out of 5


  1. Great review! I actually really enjoyed the book, but I don't disagree with what you wrote. I am very curious about Tomas (whether he remembers or not--I'm trying to keep this vague) and obviously about what really happened with him (still trying to keep it vague). So I will be reading the next book (it's hard for me not to continue reading a series unless I just absolutely hate it).

  2. have this on my wishlist as well.

    Too bad it's only a 3 stars book.

  3. Just found this review through your July round-up post and yes to so many of these things! And you're nicer than me, I gave it 2.5 stars. I found the writing to be seriously lacking and gave me a very disconnected feeling... I never felt close to Cia or her feelings and the action was definitely lacking. I also agree with what you said about her relationship with Tomas not feeling like it had a realistic build-up and about the overall premise not really making a whole lot of sense either.

  4. People seem to either love or hate this book, I guess we are on the last team:)

  5. Hate's too strong a word for me... if I truly hated it I would have given it one star. Let's just say I think it is weak from a literary standpoint.


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