The Testing  - Joelle Charbonneau Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When I first came across The Testing I knew I had to read it. I'm a huge fan of dystopia and anything marketed as "for fans of The Hunger Games" completely grabs my attention! I was fortunate enough to get sent a copy of this book to review. The Testing follows Cia as she approaches her graduation, and with it the chance of being entered into the Testing, a brutal challenge where the chosen few compete to gain a place at university.

Having read so much YA dystopia (because it's a genre I adore so much!) I'm always a little apprehensive going into a new novel, because I worry they'll all feel similar or the best ideas have already been done. The Testing really proved to me that there is still originality out there and the ideas in this book blew me away. I loved that the focus was academic. The characters chosen for the Testing are smart and have huge potential. I love seeing Cia use her brain to move forwards in the process. Each of the challenges she faces are complex and daunting, and I think you have to give the author huge credit for dreaming up these wonderfully intricate challenges that were incredibly clever. The writing was so sharp and intelligent.

I loved the world building in The Testing and the post-apocalyptic environment the story takes place in was unique and well developed. I really enjoyed reading about the history of the United Commonwealth and how it has been ravaged by war. There was so much attention to detail. The nation is split up into colonies and Cia comes from the Five Lakes Colony which has always been a bit of an underdog and gets looked down upon by people from other colonies. I think that made me root for Cia even more because she's representing her colony throughout the story.

Cia herself is a really likeable main character. I loved seeing the relationship she has with her father and brothers, and even the tense relationship with her and her mother was really fascinating. I think one thing that really drew me to her was the value she places on friendship, which we see early on as she has to face leaving behind her friend Daileen. All throughout The Testing Cia is faced with the dilemma of deciding who to trust, and I loved her ability to really look out for people even when she should be looking out for herself. I think the first person present tense narrative really helped me feel what she did and connect with her, too.

I adored the pacing in The Testing which was just perfect. There was so much action and more twists and turns than I could count. It seemed like every chapter ended on a cliffhanger which made it impossible to put it down! The suspense keeps up all the way throughout the book but the two halves have very different feels to them. The second half of the book is a real survival story and I can see why there are comparisons to The Hunger Games after reading that. I think it will definitely appeal to fans of Suzanne Collins' trilogy.

There's a sprinkling of romance in The Testing with Cia getting close to Tomas, a fellow Testing candidate. I loved that it wasn't shoved in your face. It was a really sweet relationship with two people facing some truly trying circumstances and having to look out for one another and growing to really care for each other. Like I mentioned before, the story is full of moments where Cia has to decide who to trust and seeing the relationship between her and Tomas play out was gripping.

There were some really harrowing moments in The Testing and I think that was where it really stood out for me as a dystopian novel. The situations Cia ends up in are so brutal and the fates of some of the characters were so heartbreaking. I was taken aback many a time by the betrayal and lies and conspiracies, but I love it when a book really takes me by surprise. It felt like no matter how hard I tried to guess what would happen I was never prepared for what was around the corner!

The Testing has a fantastic ensemble of characters and I loved getting to know all of them. I loved how the Testing candidates bonded and stuck together, whilst at the same time trying to figure each other out. I loved the complex characters like Zandri and Ryme and the ones that really won my affections like Malachi.

I feel like I've said so much already but I can't finish up this review without mentioning the ending! The climax to The Testing was incredible and left me absolutely dying to read the next installment. I felt like I'd gone on a complete rollercoaster ride reading this book. I was shocked, sad and scared for the characters throughout the story. It's a story that will definitely stay with me!

The Testing is definitely a dystopia that can stand out from the crowd and hold its head high. The writing was phenomenal and the ideas were so intricate and smart. I really became wrapped up with the characters and felt the emotions they did as I read. I can't recommend this one highly enough and I'll be watching the clock waiting to get my hands on book two! The Testing is most definitely a new favourite.

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