Ever since Katniss Everdeen and her bow and arrow set stormed onto the scene a few years ago, practically every new book published in this genre has managed to include a critics quote on its jacket that claims it is, without a shadow of a doubt, ‘the next Hunger Games’. Most of these books, I’ve found, fall woefully short of this claim. But there are a few that manage to bring something new to the table. So if you’re one of the millions of people who couldn’t get enough of the Mockingjay, ‘The Testing’ by Joelle Charbonnaeu might just help to fill the void!
Seven stages of global war have devastated the planet, corrupting the land and making it hard for plants to grow and for people to thrive. To combat this, the United Commonwealth Government selects the brightest students to go forward for The Testing. If they pass, they will gain entry to the University, where they will be trained to be the next leaders of the country – tasked with rebuilding the Commonwealth by stretching the limits of medicine, biomechanical engineering and government, as well as finding new ways to grow crops and improve communications.
Cia is from Five Lakes colony, one of the most remote and least populated in the Commonwealth. So when four of her graduating class, including Cia, are selected to go forward for the testing, it’s an honour that hasn’t been seen in more than 10 years.
Having reached the Testing Centre, the candidates are whittled down one by one, so that only the smartest and the strongest remain. However, it soon becomes clear that the testing officials are more ruthless than Cia could ever have imagined. Failure or any kind is unacceptable. Any candidate that shows anything less than the intelligence, judgement and decisiveness judged to be necessary in a leader is penalised swiftly, without a chance for redemption.
As Cia attempts to make it through the five increasingly difficult and deadly stages of testing, she not only has to prove herself to those in charge, she also has to contend with rivals that are willing to do whatever it takes to pass.
Whereas other dystopian fiction books focus solely on staying alive, the characters in ‘The Testing’ must excel academically, using logic, learning and their assessment of their peers to overcome challenges. On top of that, they have to have the survival skills, instincts and courage to succeed. For me, this just gives it a little something extra that marks it out from the rest in this genre. It feels like it’s something that could potentially happen if a government was ever to find itself in such a precarious situation. The consequences of global war are explored in some depth, but the main focus here is on rebuilding and creating something new.
I really enjoyed this – it was something fresh and different in the genre and I’m looking forward to the next one!