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Country: Asia, MY, Malaysia
In the style of 'Hunger Games' the young people gather to be Tested when they graduate at age 16. The earth has been damaged by war and Five Lakes Colony needs people at University to develop crops that can cope and remain edible. Cia is so proud to graduate, but then is taken for Testing. She must travel to far Tosu City with three others. But her father, who was himself Tested, tells her of his wiped memory and nightmares, of how he never saw any candidate who failed again. Whatever Testing involves, he didn't want it to happen to his daughter. Trust no-one, he emphasises.
Only bright young people are accepted so Five Lakes, which sent no candidate for some years, is potentially losing the experts it needs to survive. Cia and her friend Tomas find hidden cameras trained on them even on the journey. The city is wealthy but some people look dirty and hungry. Other candidates may try to weaken the opposition, so Cia doesn't accept food from them. The first stage is written; history questions on the war and restoration, which wasn't too bad, but Cia doesn't like the sound of the team assessment stages to come, and tensions are mounting.
I was concerned that a student, stressed from exams, takes her own life. I know young people don't need a book to see that this can be done, but we don't need to show young adults that this is an option to be considered at exam time. Cia is focused on surviving and helping her friends, but she realises that no official stepped in to save the other girl, which again may inspire a reluctance in young people to confide in adults. While there is less action than in 'Hunger Games' deaths, traps and betrayals follow so this is not for the tender. With exams over, survival skills and weapons are required to face the contaminated wilderness where anything goes from the contestants.
The style of writing is good and the story kept me reading, but we early see that science is prized, knowledge and initiative are survival tools. The real lesson of Joelle Charbonneau is encouraging young people to learn all they can; our race may depend on them, and not just for brutal combat entertainment. This makes it less believable however that her dystopian society would cull the most intelligent young people annually; surely they would cull the slowest? If you know a young person who reads THE TESTING, I would encourage them to discuss it and see which attitudes are relevant to their own lives and which are not.
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