“The Testing” Overshadows Predecessors in Dystopian Thriller Genre

The third book in the series, “Graduation Day,” is scheduled for release on June 17.


I’m sure by now you’ve read The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins or the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. Maybe you’ve read the Uglies series or The Maze Runner series, too. Maybe you’ve just seen movies. Either way, you’ve probably been exposed to plenty of young adult (YA) stories with dystopian themes.

If you looked very closely, you probably noticed that they’re all more or less the same: a corrupt system. A bad@$# female lead. A male love interest.

Now, I’m not saying that The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau doesn’t follow the footsteps of its predecessors. It goes through the motions and follows the unwritten rubric of YA dystopian novels. You’ve got your Capitol and your Effie Trinket, your Erudite and your Dauntless, your Maze and your Scorch Trials. Or at least, Charbonneau’s own version of those things.

But the way it compares to other books isn’t important. What’s important is the way it contrasts.

The Testing shows society in postwar America and the way it is coping with the aftermath of a nuclear world war. Charbonneau, unlike many YA dystopian authors, provides in-depth detail about the way America fell into such disarray. She tells this story through the perspective of the protagonist Cia Vale and her answers to an incredibly taxing history test.

The first part of the testing is a lot like finals, in the way that your answers seem like they could make or break your entire future. The difference is they actually might. Only 20 of over 100 kids make it through this test. As for what happens to those who fail… let’s just say wrong answers are penalized.

The plot never ceased to leave me on the edge of my seat, and it only got better and better as the story went along. It took me two days to read this book. It took me two years to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So there’s that.

Multiple New York Times best-selling authors provided praise for The Testing.

“The Testing is a chilling and devious dystopian thriller that all fans of The Hunger Games will simply devour,” wrote Jonathan Maberry, author of Rot & Ruin and Flesh & Bone.

He’s got the “chilling and devious” part right, but what he doesn’t mention is that there is much more to this book than its similarities to The Hunger Games. It’s a lot like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. I might even call it a mixture of those three.

But a venn diagram or a comparative essay couldn’t quantify the intelligence and depth of The Testing. You don’t have to like The Hunger Games in order to like this book. You don’t even have to like reading to like this book.

I encourage everyone above the age of 13 to purchase The Testing.  While you’re at it, pick up both books in the series. They won’t disappoint.

I look forward to reading the third book in the series, Graduation Day, that comes out on June 17. It is available for pre-order at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.com.