The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau (book review) – keep friends close, enemies closer?

book cover of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau published by Houghton MifflinFor a chance at your dream, how far would you go?
What would you sacrifice?
How much can you give without giving up who you are?

This dystopian novel of trials and trust, peril and personal integrity, desperation and death is not a Hunger Games knockoff, by any means.

Testing completely done in secret, candidates’ minds wiped after they fail or succeed, the lucky ones who get into Tosu University will be assigned to other colonies and never see their families again.

Gotta be glad that the consequences of our standardized testing in the US aren’t so severe…

This is Charbonneau’s first foray into the sci-fi world and young adult books, as her previous books feature Chicago women who wind up in small towns solving mysteries, one series with inherited roller-skating rink, the other with glee club director. Glad that this is the first in a trilogy, as I can’t wait to see what happens after the candidates get to the university. shares a short prequel to the story, to tide you over until publication day on Tuesday, June 4.

So, how do you decide who to trust?

Book info: The Testing (Testing, book 1) / Joelle Charbonneau.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My book talk: Of course, Cia longs for a chance to attend the University! But to pass the Testing, she must be willing to do anything and to trust no one… not even her first love. The stakes are high – the dangers are too numerous to count.

All the scientists, teachers, and leaders of the cataclysm-torn United Commonwealth have passed The Testing and succeeded at Tosu University. When graduation day closes with no word from the capital, Cia thinks she’s stuck working on tractors in Five Lakes Colony forever. But the next day brings a Tosu official who tells Cia, Tomas, Malachi, and Zandri that they will leave for the Testing in the morning!

As her family and friends celebrate, Cia’s father tells of his recurring nightmares from his Testing time and  warns her to trust no one. From the moment they leave Five Lakes, everything is part of the Testing. There are only 20 openings at the University and over 150 Testing this year. Coming from her collaborative community, the 16-year-old thinks Dad is exaggerating, until another Testing candidate tries to poison her before the first exams begin!

The academic exams are hard, the practical and cooperative exams are harder, with more and more students failing each level. Phase 3 drops the remaining candidates into a city shattered by war, instructing them to return to Tosu City through hundreds of miles of disaster-blasted territory, equipped only with a few survival supplies and their wits. They can make alliances if they wish, but still only 20 will be allowed into the University… if that many survive.

Has Cia chosen the right equipment for the journey?
Can she locate Tomas near the drop-point?
Is she right to trust the boy she’s known and loved all her life – or is her father right?

First in a series set in a future United States trying to rebuild itself after nuclear war and worldwide geologic shifts, The Testing  asks whether being truly human is more than just surviving at any cost.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy through NetGalley and cover image both courtesy of the publisher.

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