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*I received a free ARC of The Testing from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
The Testing starts with Cia’s graduation, and the hope that she will be selected for the testing in the Commonwealth’s capital Tosu City. Several of Cia’s friens think she’ll be chosen, even if it has been a long time since any student from Five Lakes has been chosen. When no government official shows up, Cia tries her best not to show her disappointment, her oldest brother Zeen understands exactly how she feels, though. The next day, a government official arrives, though, and he wants to see Cia and three other graduates from her class. Cia is elated when she realizes she has been chosen for the testing, her dad, however, seems troubled more than anything else.
The one advice Cia’s father gives her the last evening she is home is to trust noone. Not even the other kids form her class. And he tells her the few things he remembers from his own testing. It gives Cia chills, and she suddenly understands that maybe the testing isn’t the thing she has hoped for during her whole childhood. Before leaving the very next morning, Cia can pack very few things, and one of the things she chooses is a communication device her father and her brother have modified a little.
What I liked the most about The Testing is Cia, and her resourcefulness! She is the kind of young woman who is looking for solutions, not for problems. And when the going gets tough, Cia is actually even tougher! At the same time, she really cares about her friends, and helps out other people she encounters during the testing in the classroom. Even in the capital, the testing is truly unforgiving, though, and what Cia and the other characters go through is really gruesome. Yes, they are fed, and they have beds to sleep in – but really, the pressure they are under, and the way failing is treated is chilling to say the least! The final part of the testing is even worse, as all the candidates who are still being tested are left far from the capital, and they only have the few items they brought from home, plus three items they could choose before leaving the capital.
The adventure and the action start for real once the candidates are in the wilderness, and I was so invested in Cia, Thomas and their success it was really hard to read about some of the things they had to got through. The government in this society gets no points from me! Cia has a very good explanation for why things are the way they are – and it is that they now need a leader who is strong enough to strike back when s/he has to, but also smart enough to know when to retreat.
The world building is really well done! The was the readers learn more about why things have become so difficult through the way candidates talk to each other, or the interactions Cia has with her family at the beginning of the Testing made the world accessible in a very natural way. It made sense that there would be less water, dry lands and difficulties to grow enough food.
I loved Cia, and her character development followed the same direction during the whole testing. She always tried to find the best solution, even when she was in untenable situations, she would only go to drastic measures if it was the only way to save herself. Her friendship with Tomas from her hometown is what saves both her and him, I think. They can lean on each other, both to move forward, and to stay safe in this extremely aggressive environment, where there is not way to know who is friend and who is foe. And where friends end up not being friends at all!
The pacing is quite slow at the beginning of The Testing, but as the characters move away from the city, the pacing is faster, until it reaches a peak where anything is possible! I was always kept at the edge of my seat, and I could never guess what would happen next. The only constant is Cia’s resourcefulness, and her caring. And I think both of these things are what will keep her together in the future books of The Testing series. The writing is really good, the ‘next page’ button on my kindle practically made itself move forward, not much effort was demanded of me at all!
Towards the end, Cia and Thomas know they will have their memories wiped, and they are trying to find ways to hold on to those memories anyway, because amid all the horrible things that happened during the testing, they lived through their first kiss, and started to have real feelings towards each other. And there were some things they wanted to make sure to remember too – like who to trust, and who to stay very far away from.
The very end broke my heart! But in a really good way, and now, I’m even more impatient to read book two in this series! As I said – Cia’s resourcefulness really is something else! Now, I have seen that some people who compare The Testing to Hunger Games, and although I love the Hunger Games, I can’t really say I agree. The Testing is not something that seems ominous to those who are chosen, they think they will be able to take some theoretical tests, then go on to university. This is pretty far from what happens, and not only their intellectual skills are tested, their survival skills as well as their ability to judge the character of other people is at least – if not more – important. And there is no victors in The Testing, only a bunch of kids who don’t remember the last month of their lives…
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