Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher & Release Date: Houghton Mifflin, June 2013
The Hook: Post-apocalyptic battle for survival where nothing is what is seems? Yes, please!
The Lowdown: Graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale: she finally finds out whether she’ll be chosen for the Testing, a program to select the new leaders of a world still struggling to recover from chemical and biological destruction. But that night, her father warns her of the true nature of the Testing – a vicious competition where the penalties for wrong answers are deadly. At least she has Tomas, the one person she can trust on the field… she hopes.
Overall Impressions: This is very similar to the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner, with environmental and interpersonal landmines, real and figurative. Cia and her reactions to the brutal regime of tests draw a lot of sympathy from the reader, and a strong romantic thread with Tomas pulls the story along. Issues of trust, secrecy and Big Brother surveillance present interesting challenges to their relationship and to Cia’s view of the world and of her fellow human beings.
This is scheduled to be the first in a trilogy, and has seeded some intriguing elements for future world exploration. I look forward to seeing more about the world outside the very structured Commonwealth, both the twisted humans in the contaminated wilds and the rebels we caught a brief glimpse of in this first novel.
The Highs: Fast-paced, with believable characters and an interesting look at the results of a biological, chemical and nuclear world war. I appreciated that Cia is a very intelligent and strongly moral character, who still has lessons to learn through the book.
Buzzkills: The writing felt overly simplistic at times. There’s about as much gore as the Hunger Games, if that bothers readers.
The Source: ALA Midwinter Exhibits.
Disclaimer: No chocolate or other survival gear was provided by the publisher for this review.
Edited to add author’s name. Whoops!