YA Review: The Testing

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau

This book has everything you’d expect from a YA Dystopian novel, and it hits each beat perfectly. Teenagers taken from their homes to be tested for the next stage of their lives. Danger, manipulation, and cruelty at the hands of the authorities. A competition where success means a chance at an education, and failure means death. A glimpse of corruption and rebellion behind the scenes of the testing process, and a friends-to-lovers romance along the way.

The story takes place in a world almost destroyed by war and climate disasters. Isolated colonies are established by a central government to reclaim land from the poisons of war and the climate crisis. Teenagers with high test scores at their colony schools are selected to compete for a place at the university where they will be trained to become the leaders of the future. Cia’s colony hasn’t sent a candidate for testing in years, so it is a surprise when she is chosen along with three of her classmates. The testing proves to be more difficult – and more deadly – than anything the colonists had imagined, and Cia and her friends must work together to survive.

But there’s a twist, revealed early in the novel, which adds an extra dimension to the testing, and to Cia’s developing relationship with her school friend. With failure punished by death, and candidates encouraged to eliminate their competitors, Cia realises that she must hide what she knows from the authorities, and act extremely carefully at every stage of the process.

Cia is a sympathetic, brave, and intelligent protagonist. She quickly learns to be observant, to think beyond the tasks in front of her, and to conceal her knowledge from everyone who might use it against her. Her relationships with the other candidates develop throughout the novel as she finds herself constantly guessing who she can trust, who might help her, and who might prefer to see her fail. The other characters are well drawn and believable, and the friends-to-lovers romance feels natural in the context of the story.

The world-building is fantastic, with each location carefully described. The history and geography of the post-war continent builds throughout the book, and nothing feels forced or out of place. When I reached the end I ordered book two in the series and started reading immediately – I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next!

Have you read The Testing? What did you think of the story? Would you have succeeded in Cia’s place? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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