I have just recently finished reading ‘The Testing’ trilogy and it’s now become one of my favourite dystopian series. Some people (inevitably) compare it to ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ but ‘The Testing’ is , for me, a lot better even though it hasn’t received the attention of it’s more famous competitors. Joelle Charbonneau creates a strong, intelligent protagonist in Malencia (Cia) Vale. Cia is a genuinely likeable character and I found myself instantly being able to relate to her. Something I couldn’t do with Katniss Everdeen and that took time with Tris Prior.
Cia lives in a world devastated by the ‘Seven Stages Of War’. The United States now divided into colonies and inbetween is a wasteland with wide cracks in the earth and contaminated soil and water. The capital of what is now known as ‘The United Commonwealth’ is Tosu City, built from the remains of Wichita, Kansas. Tosu is the location of the University that the students selected for The Testing will attend if they succeed in the 4 challenges set before them. After The Testing the student’s memories are wiped but Cia’s father had flashbacks of his Testing and tried to warn her to “trust no one”. Cia, with the help of her love interest Tomas, her mechanical knowledge and new allies made at the University, must try and end the brutal selection process and at the same time, deal with a corrupt government, question themselves when they are forced to kill for the greater good and try to figure out who, if anyone, can actually be trusted.
The setting of ‘The United Commonwealth’ is described in such detail that you can very easily picture the wastelands and how it came to be. The chemical rains and earthquakes ravaging the land and before that, how the First Stage Of War actually began. We hear of the creatures in the wasteland, some human, mutated by experiments and some animal, changed by radiation and chemicals. We also hear of the colonies. Some close to Tosu and more advanced, some, like Five Lakes (Cia’s colony) considered backward and simple.
Cia, as a heroine, is super-intelligent, caring and well trained in aspects of survival such as chemically testing the water and knowing how to fire a gun. This is what makes me like her so much. She’s not a ‘damsell in distress’ type. You wouldn’t expect that as she grew up with four brothers. It’s her caring side however, that gets her noticed during The Testing, and not for the right reasons. Any sign of weakness during The Testing is seen as failure. The candidates are monitored all the time via cameras and their personalised bracelets but Cia figures out a way to disable the bracelets. She uses her mechanical skill frequently in the trilogy and combined with Tomas’s skills with plants they make a great team.
The ending of the trilogy leaves a huge opportunity for more books. We know that Cia is headed back to Tosu to finishes her studies but will Tomas go with her? Will she succeed in becoming one of the leaders of The United Commonwealth? I really hope Charbonneau continues Cia’s story. There’s so much opportunity for expansion here. If you haven’t read ‘The Testing’, give it a go. My favourite genre is dystopian and this is, in my opinion, the best example of a great YA dystopian series.