Ryan's June 2013 pick, 2 of 2
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Lookout Hunger Games, there's a new player in town, and it's name is The Testing. Joelle Charbonneau's new novel, the first in a trilogy, shares a lot of similarities with the Hunger Games, but is superior in my opinion. The Testing uses
intelligence in place of violence, and while there are still deaths,
they don't seem to be as unnecessary as a bunch of kids thrown into an
arena to kill each other. Instead, the brightest students each year are
chosen for The Testing where they go through a series of exams that
include written tests on history, math, science, and english, puzzles
where incorrect answers are penalized (sort out the poisonous
plants...confident? Okay, eat the edible ones.), an exercise in
teamwork, and finally being dropped into a different city where they
need to use their skills to find their way back to Tosu City--the base
of operations for the Testing.Of those who make it back, 20 are selected
to go on to University where they can earn a degree and perhaps even go
on to be leaders of the cities.
Students are taught that The Testing is a great honor, and they yearn
for the chance to be chosen. When Cia is chosen, it's as though she's
won the lottery - she'll get a chance to use her intelligence and
cunning to pass The Testing and hopefully move on to University! It's
her dream come true! At least, until her father drops some heavy info in
her lap that The Testing might not be all it's cracked up to be.
There are some shady aspects to the whole affair, and our main
character Cia recognizes them quickly, but unlike Katniss, she knows how
to play the game without upsetting people. She's not a rebel, she's not
a revolutionary, she just knows how to play it so she doesn't die.
She'd probably be great at the game of thrones. There is a love
interest, but their relationship almost takes a backseat in the
story--he's more of a pleasant distraction and motivator for survival
than a boyfriend, which I found refreshing.
Reading this book, I definitely recognized the flashes of The Hunger Games but
it didn't bother me as much as I thought it might. Instead it felt like
this was inspired by those books, but it wasn't copying them. It took a
different path, one that I appreciated. I liked how intelligent the
competitors were, and how some of them had very different strategies for
being one of the winners. Cia is given one piece of advice: Trust no
one. She has a rather hard time following that advice, though.
The Testing is a great novel for anyone 12 and up. If you loved The Hunger Games, you will adore this book. Trust me.
Excerpt (pgs 29-30):
Dad leads me over to the oak bench
Hamin made Mom for her birthday and takes a seat. I sit next to him and
wait for him to speak.
Crickets chirp. Wind rustles the
tree branches above us. From somewhere deep in the lengthening shadows
come the faint sounds of wolves and other animals prowling in the night.
After what seems like forever, Dad takes my hand and holds it tight. When he speaks, I have to lean close to hear him. "
There are things I've never told you. I had hoped to never tell you. Even now I'm not certain I should."
I sit up straighter. "Is it about The Testing?" Dad has never
talked about his Testing or much about his days spent at the University
no matter how many questions I've asked. For a moment I feel closer to
him, knowing we'll share this experience. Then the moment is shattered.
"You should never have been chosen."