I think The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau is a good book, however I wonder if I would have once described it as a great book. ¬What do I mean by that? Well the problem is I read The Hunger Games first and I fell in love with how unique it was at the time, the Hunger Games was my ‘gateway drug’ to the world of YA dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, in fact it’s the reason this blog exists, thought tellingly I have never written a review of it for this site; some things are sacred. To be fair, any book that has similar elements…the concept of a survival contest, a very strong female lead character, and the questions it raises about exactly what someone is willing to do to survive is going to draw some comparisons, so I have to commend Ms. Joelle Charbonneau for bravely tackling that territory.
The problem I have with falling in love with The Testing is that I feel a sense of déjà vu. Celia lives in one of the many communities surrounded by the wastelands caused by wars and environmental disasters, but fortunately her community no longer knows hunger as much as others do. Her father was one of the people who passed The Test and attended the University; he is a biologist who works to create plants that can survive the harsh soil conditions. No one from her town has been selected for the Test in many years, and Celia is determined to be chosen for this honor, even though strangely enough her older brother Zeen, who is considered the smartest in the family was not selected. Celia is among a group from her community who is chosen for The Test to determine if they will get a coveted spot in the University in the capital city. Among her group is Tomas, a handsome boy from her community that Celia has played with since childhood.
When the news that Celia has been chosen breaks, her father pulls her aside for a private chat and shocks her by telling her he wishes she had not been chosen. She learns that her father has strange nightmares about his Test. Those who take The Test have their memories wiped so that no one can pass on any tips for future candidates. Celia’s father isn’t sure if the nightmares are side effects of the memory wipe all testing candidates endure so that future candidates can’t cheat, or if the horror in them was real, so he warns her to trust no one. Armed with the information, Celia prepares carefully for her trip to the capital city, but she breaks from her father’s advice by telling Tomas what her father said. Whether that will turn out to be a great decision or a bad one is something that won’t be revealed until the next book in this series.
Before I could post this review of the first book in the series, I read the second book, and if you are on the fence about even starting this series, I suggest you read my review of book II, before you decide…