This book begins with Malencia Vale's graduation day in the Five Lakes Colony. Graduation is an important event for two reasons: It marks Cia's transition into adulthood, which means she gets to discard the pink clothing that marks her as a child for a red outfit that denotes her adult status in a manner highly reminiscent of The Giver. Cia also learns whether or not she has been chosen by the government to participate in The Testing in order to obtain a chance to attend the University in Tosu City, which is a dream she has held onto throughout her schooling. Of course, she gets her wish.
During the testing process, Cia is confronted with obstacles that not only test her intelligence, but also her ability to discern who is and is not trustworthy. The fourth and final test is when things really start to happen in the book. Unfortunately, it does not begin until halfway into the story. The final test involves leaving a bunch of teenagers in a barren wilderness and forcing them to outwit and fight each other. These competitors will stop at nothing to survive and eliminate their competition, even if it means killing them. In addition to these dangers, mutated animals lurk in this abandoned land and pose a serious threat to the competitors' safety. The testing officials also frequently manipulate the test by forcing the candidates to congregate in specific locations, or they tempt the candidates into entering a trap that results in their death. Oh, and there just happens to be a handsome boy from Cia's colony who is deeply in love with her and does everything he can to ensure her safety and survival during "The Testing."
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I've read this story before.
Here are some other plot points that gave me pause:
1. There are people who survived the numerous wars and natural disasters that plagued the earth but refuse to join any of the colonies. They would rather starve living on the outskirts of society than support any form of government.
2. During the administration of a test, one of the candidates ends up with a knife in his eye.
3. The testing officials use truth serum on the candidates, but someone figures out a way to fight the drug.
4. The final test begins in a city formally known as Chicago.
Again, I'm pretty sure this story already exists. I have read many dystopian books, so perhaps my observations are more critical because I am familiar with a lot of the patterns and themes used in these types of stories. However, there are some uncanny similarities between this book, The Hunger Games, and Divergent. There are other elements within the plot that differentiate The Testing enough from these other series, but the author does not succeed in bringing a new perspective to the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre or address any issues that other authors hadn't already explored.
Unfortunately, I skimmed a lot of chapters and found it difficult to remain fully engaged in the story or care what happens to the characters. The story was okay, but I did not love it as much as I had hoped.
Thank you to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, and Netgalley for allowing me access to an Advance Reading Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.