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Dystopian Series Ender | Book Review: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

Graduation Day is a roller coaster of events and situations…but not emotions. I knew exactly what I was feeling the whole time. Which was anxiety and uncertainty about the book.

Book Review: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

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graduation day joelle charbonneau book review

Title & Author: Graduation Day (The Testing) by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction – Dystopia

Release Date: June 17, 2014

Series: The Testing #3

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher


“In book three of the Testing series, the United Commonwealth wants to eliminate the rebel alliance fighting to destroy The Testing for good. Cia is ready to lead the charge, but will her lethal classmates follow her into battle?

She wants to put an end to the Testing
In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor, Cia Vale, vows to fight.

But she can’t do it alone.
This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves–and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates.

Who can Cia trust?
The stakes are higher than ever-lives of promise cut short or fulfilled; a future ruled by fear or hope–in the electrifying conclusion to Joelle Charbonneau’s epic Testing trilogy. Ready or not…it’s Graduation Day.

The Final Test is the Deadliest!”

The End is Here

I opened Graduation Day with much trepidation. Would there be a real ending? Would I like it? And most importantly, who’s gonna die?! (With dystopians, all bets are off).

What I found was a mind-bending political drama that focused on Cia trusting her instincts and finally deciding how far she’s willing to go to stop The Testing. She pushes the limits of her cleverness and morals and values to see it through.

What sets Graduation Day apart from The Testing and Independent Study was that the facade of “school” and “learning” is totally dropped. It’s very Harry Potter-esque in that way.

This final book focuses on Cia and her journey – reminding readers all she’s been through while illustrating the long road ahead. The story stays very close to a mission that Cia is given by President Collindar. There’s very little to deflect or relieve this very intense purpose she’s been assigned.

I wished there had been a larger emotional appeal to the story. It’s very “ok, we have a plan we must execute, so let’s do that” type of book. I wanted to feel for Cia.

It’s not that Cia’s feelings aren’t conveyed, it’s just there was so much distance between reading the words and feeling their weight in my mind. Kind of like a delayed reaction.

The Trouble With Endings

The end really matters in books. Even just psychologically. We tend to judge an entire experience by how it ended. So where does that leave Graduation Day?

This is tough. There is enough closure to feel satisfied while enough open-endedness to keep readers hopeful of the future of the United Commonwealth.

However, what I would deem the true heart of the book – what holds it together for me – is left dry by the end. After the war and fighting and underhandedness going on, I want to have a sense of peace in some form or another. Even Allegiant granted a certain type of assurance at the end of the book.

I didn’t feel that way here. I felt unsettled and robbed. Robbed in the sense of being denied something I know many other fans will want.

While Graduation Day didn’t suffer from tying too many loose ends together like many last-in-series books, it did almost the opposite. It focused so much on the final events that it forgot about the heart and soul of the story – what makes surviving in an uncertain world bearable (= relationships).


For fans of The Testing books, I would recommend seeing this series to the end. Although you might be frustrated with the lack of real emotion and the dissatisfying ending, Graduation Day will remind you why you loved the books in the first place – a certain razor-sharp girl who is unafraid to ask questions and seek the truth.

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.
  • mayceegreene

    If you LOVE dystopian genre books then by all means add this series to your to-read list, it was a good (but not great) read. After loving book two more than the first I had hopes for the ending to go out with a bang. Unfortunately for me it just fell flat.

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