This YA dystopian novel has been getting some noise since before it came out on June 4th… Stress on the YA
dystopian novel part. When I first laid eye on the cover, I thought to myself, Oh, great… another one.*
Despite seeming to follow a sort of guideline for the recent YA novels (post apocalyptic, dystopian, strong female main character), The Testing has a distinct world all its own. After the seven stages of the war, which destroyed most of the population as well as the fertility of the land, several small colonies are actively trying to rebuild their world. High school graduates from all of the country study vigorously to qualify for the nearly legendary Testing, in order to be admitted into the University. Graduates of the University can become officials of the capital, Tosu City, doctors, nurses, engineers, agricultural innovators, and more. Basically, one can only make a difference if he or she graduates the University.
Cia’s father was a student at the University, and now develops new versions of the old edible plants that can survive in the radioactive soil. She wants to make a difference in the world, like her father, and is thrilled to find that she is selected for the Testing. She has no idea what to expect, however, because all memories of the Testing are erased from the minds of the University’s graduates. Supposedly this is so that no new participants have an unfair advantage. Cia doesn’t think twice about it, until her father gives her some frantic advice; trust no one. The Testing is much more deadly than a simple pencil and paper examination.
I read the first half of The Testing in less than a day. I was engrossed for that part, unable to unglue my fingers from the cover. The world and ideas were unique, as opposed to the Hunger Games or Partials. However, at about page 160 everything started to lose my interest. The book was so similar to all of the other YA novels of late that I felt like I was reading it for the second time. Actually, I felt like I was a step or two ahead of the plot, most of the time. As if that weren’t bad enough, the characters were uninteresting. I hadn’t realized that until then, because the plot had been so interesting in the first half of the book.
Cia and her handsome companion Tomas (without an “h”) just seemed like generic people. Okay, Cia was resourceful (how else would she have made it this far?) and Tomas was smart and perfect, but other than that, I couldn’t see any difference between them and any of the side characters. In fact, the side characters were more interesting than Cia and Tomas. Tomas was, as I said, handsome, smart, and perfect, and that’s why I strongly disliked him. I could tell immediately that he was meant to fill the love interest requirement, and Joelle Charbonneau seemed to have no intention of hiding it. The first adjective used to describe Tomas was “handsome”. I felt like I didn’t get to discover his role myself, because he confesses his love to Cia so early in the book. there is no conflict against Cia’s and Tomas’ romance, for nearly the entire book.
This brings my to my next point. Miss Charbonneau throws kisses around often for little to no reason. Tomas casually kisses Cia randomly throughout the book, and there are a few, more important kisses in tense situations. Cia tells us without hesitation that she loves Tomas, and isn’t conflicted about it at all (despite having said early on that “Boys and dating” aren’t her primary focus at the present). This annoyed me quite a bit.
I don’t know if this is a style choice, or an attempt to make The Testing more readable, but Joelle Charbonneau’s grammar was sketchy. She had a tendency to use incomplete sentences, and ordinarily I’d be fine with this, but it happened so often that it got on my nerves after a while. “But I understand. Outrage. Anger. The need for vengeance … They are moving forward. Fast.” and random statements like, “But I can’t.” wore my grammar nazi’s tolerance thin. Yes, I too am guilty of opening sentences with conjunctions like however, also, and but. Miss Charbonneau’s usage of such was annoying because she used incomplete sentences at least once or twice on every page. I’m fine with an incomplete sentence during the climax, to heighten the tension, but The Testing is riddled with them everywhere.
Another possible style choice is the use of cold, robotic sentences. For example, “I suppose the smell of food cooking alerted them to the presence of another human being.” Is it just me or does that seem a little too calculating for the voice of a sixteen-year-old dreamer? Such sentences are used throughout the book.
Despite the fact that The Testing disappointed me, I’d like to say that I will read the second part of the trilogy. Eventually, I plan on reviewing the series as a whole. Although I can’t say I recommend The Testing (sorry, Joelle Charbonneau), you may enjoy the incomplete sentences and similarity to the Hunger Games.
*At some point, we’re gonna run out of ways to end, or permanently maim, the world.
Note: I never found out why the blurb on the cover is, “Your time is almost up.” Maybe it’s just a general description of the book, or maybe I missed something in the dialogue. If you’ve read the Testing, could you help me out?