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Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing is a Hunger Games-esque charge into adulthood and…college. You’ll never guess all the twists and turns comin atcha.

Book Review: Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

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the testing joelle charbonneau book review

Title & Author: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy – Dystopia

Release Date: June 4, 2013

Series: The Testing #1

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

How I Got the Book: Bought


“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.”

Missed the Buzz

I don’t know how I managed it, but I completely missed hearing about The Testing. After my friend Anne asked me if I’d read it (and I hadn’t at the time), I looked into it. In need of a new book, I decided to dig in.

What I found was The Hunger Games mixed with college admissions. If you’re hearing “dystopia” and deciding to run, I totally understand. The genre has EXPLODED in the past few years with more books than ever in this setting.

But, I will say, if you run, you may regret it. I found The Testing to be an interesting and new take on dystopia. It’s futuristic like Divergent – set after the world almost eliminates itself – with the free-for-all attitude of The Hunger Games.

This book really kept me on my toes – I never knew quite what to expect. Cia is given her tests in fits and starts, and so is the reader. Discovering everything along with Cia (first-person vs. third-person omniscient) added extra flair and non-TMI-ish.

There are so many surprises that there was no way I could guess what would happen next. Plus, I appreciated the constant doubt and edginess Cia maintained. Because she never gets truly comfortable in her surroundings, neither did I. It created tension and drama in the smallest incidents.

Highly Anticipating the Sequel

As you may have realized by now, I don’t talk a lot about the fine details of what happens in my reviews. I HATE giving away too much because my opinion is that if a review outlines every detail for readers, what incentive do they have to read the book when they know everything that’s going to happen?

I’m probably overly cautious, but this book is testing my reserve (<--- I didn't do that on purpose, I swear!!). I'll just leave it at this: Charbonneau uses some very clever tricks to keep things...spicy. She certainly understands the art of creating suspense. The next book, Independent Study, is coming out January 7, 2014, and I'm so very thankful I won't have to wait long for it. The Testing is one of those books that will demand you read the sequel RIGHT AWAY!! If you can’t wait, hold off reading the book for a week and a half, then PICK IT UP IMMEDIATELY and start reading.

Be warned: there is a third book, Graduation Day, but (mercifully) it will ALSO be published this year – June 3rd.


This is a book where you’ll want to read the sequel as soon as possible (it will be out a few weeks) because it infuses secrets with suspense in a masterful way. Although it’s another YA dystopia, it definitely holds its own among the rest. More than survival skills are needed to pass the cunning and cleverness needed for The Testing

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Kayla @ The Thousand Lives

    I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I just bought it today, after a lot of debate since I had read a lot of good reviews yet also a lot of really negative reviews. I’m really hoping I’ll love it, since I loved Divergent and THG. As long as it’s not too close, I think I’ll be okay!

    I had no idea the sequel was coming out so soon either – I’ll have to make sure I get that one as well 🙂

  • Anne from Pintesting

    Thanks for the great mention, Lisa! 😀 I really liked this book, too. Some reviews were very critical, calling it a Hunger Games wannabe. I found it, and it’s prequel (which is FREE as an e-book), to have a great story line and I loved the strong family ties. You really get a good feel for the characters, and it doesn’t take forever to get into the story. Less than 2 weeks…!

  • Bibliotropic

    I actually wasn’t too keen on this one. It was a good book, and I couldn’t find anything really WRONG with it, but I think it would have been far more impressive had it not come during the glut on YA dystopian novels. I found that it had very little to make it stand out from over a dozen other titles in that genre, and was fairly formulaic in its plot. Which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for in a book, and you really enjoy that subgenre. But for me, it just couldn’t stand up. Which was a shame, and I know it’s a highly subjective thing, because had I read this book a few years ago, before the dystopian boom really began, I would have loved it and found it to be quite original and action-packed.