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Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing
The Testing
The Testing


Highlights: Each test is unique, but the third test is KILLER.
Synopsis: Students in a dystopian society are chosen to take a series of tests for admission to university. Only the best and brightest are chosen for the testing, and not everyone survives the process.
Genre: ,



Fun Factor

Reading Recommendation

Total Score
13/ 14

User Rating
1 total rating



Fast-paced and dystopian, it's perfect for fans of The Hunger Games.


Some will say the story is a little too similar to The Hunger Games.

Bottom Line

I read The Testing in a single sitting. It’s that kind of book. I doubt it will get any nominations for the Pulitzer or the Printz, but that’s not the point. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled novel that celebrates the power of knowledge, I highly recommend The Testing. The sequel, Independent Study, comes out in January 2014, and I can’t wait!

Posted August 19, 2013 by

Full Article

The Testing was just published two months, but it’s already causing a huge buzz in the YA world. I know some of you may be completely worn-out on young adult dystopian novels. Since the success of The Hunger Games, especially The Hunger Games movie, it seems like every book is dystopian and every book is comparing itself to Suzanne Collins’ smash success trilogy.

Unfortunately, I’m going to do some of that in this review. It’s unavoidable. The Testing is quite similar to The Hunger Games. However, I’m going to make the argument that you should read it anyway. The Testing is a nerdy bookkaholic’s dream: instead of a battle of force, it’s a battle of wits and brains.

Now THAT’S my kind of battle!

Cia Vale lives in a world destroyed by the Seven Stages War. Her community, like others across the former United States (now the United Commonwealth), is struggling to rebuild. It’s not easy. The soil is damaged, the population has diminished, and the government makes most of the decisions for the benefit of the country as a whole. In order to ensure that the best and brightest young people can aid in the effort to rebuild society, these students are selected to participate in several weeks of testing for entrance to University. Only the brightest are selected to participate, and an even smaller number pass the test.

When Cia is selected to begin the process, it should be a great honor. However, her father warns her that process is not as innocent as the government wants citizens to believe. Participants have their memories wiped upon completion of the tests. What is the government trying to hide? What exactly goes on in these tests? And how come many of the participants never return home?

When starting this book, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew the tests would involve some sort of danger, but I had a hard time imagining how an author could make the tests both dangerous and believable. Charbonneau does an excellent job of showing, rather than telling, readers how this could be. It is believable. The nature of the tests makes sense. The danger in the tests makes sense.

In The Hunger Games, the sole purpose of the games is to control the people through fear. The games must be publicized for this to work. In The Testing, the purpose of the tests is to harness the intelligence of the brightest young people for the selfish needs of the government and society as a whole. The violence in The Hunger Games is required and direct, while the violence in The Testing is indirect and hidden. Though the beginnings of both novels are quite similar, it is this fundamental difference between the psychological nature of the tasks and behaviors that makes these very different stories. I never felt like Charbonneau was directly ripping of Collin’s work, only that they are both operating within a genre with very specific elements commonly found across many books.

I read The Testing in a single sitting. It’s that kind of book. I doubt it will get any nominations for the Pulitzer or the Printz, but that’s not the point. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled novel that celebrates the power of knowledge, I highly recommend The Testing. The sequel, Independent Studycomes out in January 2014, and I can’t wait!

Are you burnt out on young adult dystopian novels? Which Hunger Games read-alikes have been your favorite?


Former middle school teacher and school librarian, current doctoral student in education. Reader of all things young adult. I'm particularly fond of dystopian societies, sassy female protagonists, and clever dialogue. I can often be found asleep with a book on my face. Check out all my articles.



    I loved this book too, because of, or perhaps despite, the similarities with The Hunger Games. It’s clear from the ending that Charbonneau plans to take this in a different direction – I too have Independent Study on pre-order, and am very much looking forward to it.

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