Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Testing

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing trilogy #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Date: June 4, 2013
How did I get this book? free Advance Reader's Copy from the publisher via Shelf Awareness for my honest review
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

***Warning this post contains spoilers***

I had sworn off NetGalley completely when I got an email telling me I (and everyone else apparently!) was pre-approved for this new book. I wanted to stick to my guns, but from the sounds of it, this was going to be the next Big Thing in YA, so I went ahead and accepted. I had entered a Shelf Awareness giveaway for a print ARC, but didn't really know if I would win a copy and I didn't want to miss out. Since I hate reading on e-devices (hence the swearing off of NetGalley), it seems I procrastinated just long enough to find out that I did win a print copy from Shelf Awareness (::cue happy dance::). I picked this one up toward the end of my recent week away and my happiness quickly turned to disappointment. Going in, I knew it was getting billed as something "fans of The Hunger Games would enjoy," but no one mentioned just how similar the two books are. Just because I liked (loved!) a particular book, doesn't mean I want to read another one almost exactly like it. If you've already read the book or don't mind spoilers, you'll see what I mean... 

  • Instead of the Capital, there is Tosu City.

  • Instead of districts, there are colonies.

  • It is considered an honor to be chosen for Testing, but it is actually very dangerous and a lot of participants will die. (I suppose in The Hunger Games, it is not considered an honor in every district, but still.)

  • The Five Lakes Colony the main character is from is small, and no one believes their testing candidates pose a real threat, just like no one thinks anyone from District 12 could win the Hunger Games.

  • Instead of the reaping there is Graduation Day. It is a social event in each colony and there is even a female character who gets up on stage and starts by saying, "Happy Graduation Day." I could not help but hear an echo of Effie Trinket saying, "Happy Hunger Games" when I read that one. Seriously.

  • The chosen characters must travel to Tosu City to begin and they have not previously seen the world outside their colony. 

  • Although other colonies don't think of Five Lakes as much of a threat, they are actually better prepared for the challenges of Testing. Since they come from a smaller and more remote colony, they have better knowledge of survival skills just like Katniss. Cia has deadly aim with a bow & arrow shotgun.

  • Before part four of the testing, the candidates have to carefully choose 3 items to bring with them. Everything seems essential, but they have to prioritize and strategize. They didn't have to do battle at the cornucopia for them, but it still sounds awful similar to me.

  • Some testing candidates kill to better their chances, some form alliances. It's hard to know who to trust.

  • One night when Cia is alone, she camps up in a tree.

  • When a testing candidate from another colony is killed, Cia wants to stop and bury her because it is the right thing to do. (This one kind of killed me because the scene with Rue in The Hunger Games pretty much slayed me. This one did not have nearly the same impact.)

  • One of the other testing candidates from Five Lakes Colony is a boy who Cia hadn't paid much mind to, but who clearly has noticed her and liked her for quite some time. His name is Peeta Tomas.

  • Tomas gets injured and Cia refuses to leave him behind and nurses him back to health.

  • There is speculation that the testing officials are rigging the surroundings as part of the test. I don't know about you, but that sounds a lot like the gamemakers to me.

And these are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head since I didn't take notes as I was reading...

I know that the message/moral/point/lesson of The Testing is different than the message/moral/point/lesson of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is all about fighting against a corrupt government (though I can see this might be a direction the story might go in the future) and at least so far, The Testing seems to be making a commentary on the rigors of today's standardized testing. These differences aside, I was starting to feel like this concept about testing was just superimposed over the plot of The Hunger Games!

Given all that, a part of me wants to give it 0 stars because these similarities are just insane. On the other hand, I did enjoy reading it even though I found myself shaking my head A LOT and wondering if the author/editor/publisher realized just how similar these books are. Despite my reservations, at no point did I want to stop reading and that does say something in and of itself. I was also really glad there was no love triangle and hopefully it will stay that way throughout the series. I also bumped up my rating because I do feel this book could be setting up for much better sequels. I think there is a lot of promise and this story could take off in its own direction. I am interested enough to know I definitely want to read the sequel and if this were truly a 0 or 1 star book, I would not be inclined to do so. 

I know there are a lot of people who agree with me, but there are also a lot of others who loved this book (like my bookish buddy Kay from It's a Book Life -- read her 5 star review for a much more positive perspective.) I don't mean to bash this book, I just want to let people know what they are getting themselves into. If I did not have The Hunger Games to compare it to, I'm certain I would have loved it. It boils down to having the shadow of another story hovering over me which knocked this one down quite a few points in my esteem.
This book counts toward my reading goals for:
2013 ARC Reading Challenge
2013 Series Catch-Up Challenge


  1. That's what worries me about the publishing world. When one book or series in a genre makes it big, whether its warranted (The Hunger Games) or not (Twilight), copycats start coming out of the woodwork. It's disappointing because even if they could be good on their own, the lack of originality is unsettling.

    1. You're right & it's very disheartening becuase some of these stories have such promise. It almost feels like there is a fear that books need to be a certain way to appeal to a particular fan-base which doesn't give enough credit to readers. It's hard to stand out in a crowded field, but heavily borrowing from other established books is not going to do it for most people.

  2. I totally see where you are coming from. With your list of all the similarities... that is crazy, I guess I didn't notice them as much. I don't know how I missed all of them, I knew there were quite a few, but that is a lot. I guess I'm lucky it didn't bother me. I just was captivated by the book, I had to keep reading.

    I think the next book will be more unique and interesting. And like you, I'm glad there was no love triangle and I sincerely hope there never is.

    Great review! I hope your next read rocks your world!

    1. Honestly, it's a good thing that you didn't notice these things so much as you were reading since they were the only downsides for me. If it weren't for these comparisons nagging at my brain, I would have liked this book much more. And I do hope you're right about the next book -- I have high hopes it will stand better on its own than this one, but we will have to wait and see!

  3. A few years ago I picked up a book that read just like Vampire Academy and I HATED it, so I know where you're coming from. In that particular case I never bothered picking up the sequel. Hope your next YA read is more enjoyable.

    1. I've never read The Vampire Academy, but I can totally see how this same thing could happen. I'm still holding out hope on this one's sequels, so I'll have to see if things get better.

      I've just started Margaret Stohl's Icons and am enjoying it so far, it is definitely NOT like anything else I've read before :)


I'd love to hear what you think :)