Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

It has been awhile since I've dived into a good dystopian novel, so when I stumbled upon this book at Barnes and Noble a few months ago I just kinda bought it on a whim. Then it sat in the bag for over a month waiting patiently for finals to end and give me permission to read something that wasn't directly related to my history capstone paper.

The Testing is told from the perspective of Cia Vale, a girl who has spent her life working hard in hope of being chosen as a participant for Testing, giving her a chance to follow in her father's footsteps by continuing her education at university so she can help rebuild the broken world the Seven Stages War left behind. When she is chosen however, her father warns her to be on her guard, and she quickly realizes the Testing is far more dangerous than she had ever imagined.

For me dystopia is all about world building; convince me that the world you are asking me to envision could exist; make the new society and its people feel real and their responses to whatever disaster created the new world plausible. This is something I feel The Testing did very well. I personally hate when post-apocalyptic stories fail to at least reference whatever it is that destroyed the previous society, because how the new world was created would play a huge role in how the people rebuild. While it is not a main focus of the book, I was given enough information about the Seven Stages War to understand where the people of Cia's world were coming from, and why her society was structured the way it was. Having that little bit of explanation makes everything more realistic, which made it easier for me to transplant myself into her world.

Another strong point was the pacing of the story. It does not take forever for the main story to get started, but it does not immediately jump into things either. The author lets you get comfortable, lets you think you have figured out what to expect- just as Cia believes she knows what to expect- and then suddenly twists everything on its head. Obviously you know going in that the Testing is going to be dangerous and somehow sinister, but you don't know what is actually dangerous about it until things suddenly start going wrong. The first person perspective works well to this effect; even though you know to expect something, you are just as caught off as Cia is when things are finally set into motion.

The book definitely has a Hunger Games feel to it at certain points, you can tell the author was probably influenced at least slightly by that series, but I still felt like it was different enough and strong enough to stand on its own. I have already bought the other two books in the trilogy and I am looking forward to find out what happens next! Would absolutely recommend this book to any dystopian fans looking for a summer read. If you've already read it, tell me what you thought!

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