Book Review: The Testing

The Testing (The Testing #1)
Published By: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: June 2013
Page Count: 336
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Science Fiction, Dystopian

I really enjoyed The Testing, after a somewhat shaky start. I very nearly gave up, finding myself 25% into the book and very little of any interest had happened. Luckily the pace really picked up and it sucked me in until I couldn't put it down. 

 The story follows Cia, a 16 year old girl who is just about to graduate. Her hopes for the future lie in being selected for The Testing, which is a way to win a place at University. The world she lives in holds few other options for someone academically gifted - most of the land is completely irradiated in the aftermath of a nuclear war. So either Cia stays at home and helps in the family business, revitalising the scarred land, or she wins a place to further her talents for electrical engineering. As you would expect, Cia gets her wish and finds herself en route to The Testing. Things there seem fairly straightforward to start with, but very soon it becomes clear that there are serious repercussions for incorrect answers and failed tests. She makes a few friends, and a boyfriend, along the way, although not everyone is as they seem, and sometimes Cia has to learn the hard way that a fervent desire to succeed can sometimes be laced with ruthlessness. 

I found myself wondering why on Earth Cia didn't bail out from the program at some point - after all, if its life and death, is a place at University really that important? There were no clear consequences for those who simply disappeared, just a feeling that all was not well. Not enough to convince me to stay, that's for sure!! I found this element a touch weak. It is developed eventually, and to a much greater degree in book 2, Independent Study, but I felt this should have been at least discussed earlier on. There are other developments that I would like to discuss but they are a bit too spoilery to get into - I will save them for my review of the next book. 

 I have seen criticism of the way the story developed, likening it (unflatteringly) to the Hunger Games. I can see why the comparisons were drawn, but I didn't find this a barrier to enjoying the story at all. It has similarities with The Hunger Games, and also Julie Kagawa's The Immortal Rules (up to a point - no vamps!), but I didn't find it too derivative - more the sort of thing I might even recommend you to read if you enjoyed the dystopian flavour of those two books. As a final thought, I've immediately picked up book 2 - which will tell you all you need to know about what I thought of The Testing really!

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 and 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.


  1. I started reading this a couple of years ago as an ARC but due to technical problems couldn't finish it. Glad to know you enjoyed it, I only got up to going to the town for the testing!

  2. I am not surprised that you might read this and decide to move on - the start was very underwhelming. As I said, it really did pick up though!!


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