Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

First, thanks to Houghton Mifflin for letting me read an e-galley of this.  First let me say that this was a pretty good book.  It is one I will definitely recommend to anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games and wants to read more stories like that.
This is a future America after many horrible wars with other countries, biological, nuclear, just about every type of war I'd guess, from what is left.  The main character is Malencia, or Cia, who is getting ready to graduate.  And she hopes that she will be called to the testing, like her father was.  But graduation comes and goes, even though there was a rumor of a Commonwealth official attending, they don't show up.  At least not that day.  But soon after someone does arrive, and there are 4 people chosen from her town.  Each town has been built back up, the people there are working on some kind of technology or science to help the world get back to what it was, at least easier living, and enough food.  Cia's town has been really good with agriculture, working on the genetics of plants to make hardier strains that can survive in the soils and with the water that has been left polluted from the wars.  They also are working on ways to fix the water and irrigation.  Before Cia leaves for testing, her father pulls her aside, and tells her that the testing is something that he can't remember, they wiped his memories afterwards so he wouldn't be able to give new candidates an unfair advantage.  But he still has nightmares, and he believes things happened that he doesn't want to remember, and so warns her not to trust anyone.  As soon as they get on the road, their official, I think his name is Michael, also seems to be giving Cia clues and hints.  One of the other people from her town going is Tomas, a good friend of hers, someone she's been attracted to, but never figured he would be to her, as he was very handsome, and sought after by most of the girls in the town.  She feels that he is someone she can trust, and she lets him in on what her father told her.  She also tells him when she notices cameras pretty much everywhere they go.  Because their transport was late, they are the last to arrive, and all the other testing candidates watch them as they come in.  They are seen to be probably weak, as their town hasn't had any candidates in a long time.  Although Cia had learned from her father, there may have been a reason for that, a teacher that kept them from going, to save them.  Cia soon learns how deadly the tests can be, even just solving logic problems, or teamwork.  If the stress of the testing gets to the candidates, the officials say that happens.  The final test is the ones leftover being released near what used to be Chicago, and having to find their way back to the town where they began.  They are dropped on their own, and there are no instructions to kill, but some do, to raise their chances of getting to the end?  Or just because that is the kind of people they are?  Don't know.  But the officials don't seem to care.  Cia must decide if Tomas is someone she can really trust, or is she keeping her enemy close.
So, really good story.  But, my only complaint, it was really so close to The Hunger Games.  As I was reading, I just kept feeling like all that had been written just like The Hunger Games.  Now, that's a compliment really, because The Hunger Games are so good.  But for me it was too much the same.  So as I said before, definitely a good read for people who want something just like that.  But as much as I read, I want something new, that I can't figure out what is going to happen, so that I can't stop turning pages.  And while this wasn't boring, I wasn't on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next.  It was a good read though.  So if  you like this type of book, and don't mind books being too similar to others, you will enjoy it!