The Testing
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Joelle Charbonneau
ISBN 9780547959108
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: action adventure dystopia family friendship joelle-charbonneau romance testing

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

In Joelle Charbonneau's taut psychological novel, the Earth has been ravaged by the Seven Stages War, and its inhabitants suffer--economically, ecologically and emotionally. Few people own cars; food, fuel and paper are precious, and water is scarce. But 16-year-old narrator Malencia ("Cia") Vale remains hopeful that if she's selected for the Testing, she'll be able to change things for the better.

When Cia is chosen, her father confides to her his recurring nightmares that seem to be connected to his own experience of the Testing. He tells her that her mother's distance stems from the possibility that the Testing could mean the family will never see Cia again. Her father cautions Cia to trust no one. This dystopian novel stands out for its nuanced exploration of the tension that often develops between parents and children on the cusp of adulthood. The author fully exploits the possibilities of standardized testing as a gauge to determine a young person's future in our own society, and asks teens to question whether it's truly a measurement of their self-worth. Charbonneau puts her characters through not just tests of physical, ethical and emotional stamina, but also tests their loyalties to friends, family and to the Commonwealth itself.

There is nothing standardized about this Testing. Charbonneau's imagination will surprise readers at every turn, including the chilling ending. She wraps things up satisfyingly while still hinting at other revelations to come in books two and three of this planned trilogy.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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