Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
(Description from Goodreads)
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I’m pretty sure I’ve read this book before. In fact, I know I have. Of course several aspects are different, but it’s basically the same as The Hunger Games. Now, I have no problem with this for several reasons. One, I’m OBSESSED with The Hunger Games, it’s almost unhealthy. Two, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? Or so they say. But I’m going to try to review this book without linking it back to The Hunger Games, as it deserves a review on its own merit.
Anyone who has read my reviews knows that the number one aspect of a novel I look for is character development. Sadly, this book fell flat in that department. Automatic markdown. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the characters, even the crooked ones. But none of the characters truly formed or developed throughout the novel. Not even when facing death did the characters change…they acted like while it was out of the ordinary, they could handle it. I’m pretty sure if people you knew were dropping dead and no one was questioning it, you might find yourself not handling it very well. All the same, I liked the characters, but they didn’t grow on me, which is always disappointing when that happens.
Now for the actual storyline. I’m going to have to repeat to myself not to compare it to other dystopian novels, since it does take a lot from previous stories. There was one aspect of The Testing that I was intrigued by and that was the actual tests that took place. In a way, they were kind of like standardized tests (here in Virginia, we call them the SOLs). As an educator myself, I’m already against standardized tests, considering not all students learn the same, so how can we test them all the same way? Let me get off my soapbox… The tests were rather…terrifying. One wrong answer and that’s it! You’re dead. What? Okay, that part of the book was good and well thought out. On several occasions I found myself not expecting certain situations to happen the way they did. Other times, it was predictable as I don’t know what. While everyone else was dropping dead, Cia (the main protagonist) and Thomas (the secondary protagonist) ALWAYS seemed to know the answer to everything. While I know there are plenty of smarties out there, there aren’t many (teenagers) who know the answer to every situation thrown at them. I suppose in the right setting you may pick up on some things, but to be good at everything is just…not realistic? That’s the best way to describe it. The fact that Cia and Thomas were good at everything and managed to get out of everything almost seemed forced to me. While I get that one wrong answer could mean certain death and *SPOILER ALERT…kinda* Cia and Thomas don’t die, couldn’t they at least mess up once? Okay, so they sort of do toward the end, but still, it took that long to do so?
Also, some instances just didn’t add up. Every (or rather, most) YA novels have some form of romance in them. The romance in this though felt, like other portions of the book, forced. I really wanted to like the romance between Cia and Thomas, really I did. But, unlike another dystopian (I didn’t say the title so technically I didn’t compare it to that one!) YA novel, the romance wasn’t one-sided and it was rather sudden. Sure Thomas said he’s loved her since forever (familiar much?), but apparently Cia was all for him as well…it just took a life or death situation for them to realize it. That makes sense. If you think you might not live to see another day, you may start to say things you’ve kept inside, I get that. However, there really wasn’t any emotional connection between the two despite them acting like there was.
While my review sounds really negative, I did enjoy reading this book. It was entertaining and the idea was great, even if overused. There were just too many negative aspects for my liking (the character development is a huge portion of what I enjoy and look for in a YA novel), which is why it only received 3 out of 5 stars. I’ve found that this is one of those books that you either really love or really dislike…expect me, I apparently am the oddball who is on the fence. I would say that if you liked The Hunger Games trilogy and/or the Divergent trilogy that you should give this one a try. It’s going to be a trilogy and might just be what you are looking for to momentarily fill that empty hole where the absence of those two other trilogies are…or is that just me?