Currently I'm a librarian and before that I was an archaeologist, a journalist, and definitely a bit of a world traveler. I tend to mostly read science fiction and fantasy, though I do love a good mystery and I'm a bit of a book dabbler overall. I've been doing Goodreads for awhile, but a friend thought I might enjoy this as well. Let's see, yeah?
This novel really invites Hunger Games comparisons -- with a bit of Battle Royale and the Lord of the Flies and probably a bunch of other novels tossed in. However, this isn't a derivative story, rather (if you're like me and believe that these violent novels aren't the ones who do it merely for shock effect and slasher movie style enjoyment -- that I don't get), like the books I listed, it explores an area of young people's fear magnified to a deadly extreme. In the case of the Testing you can probably guess that this one focuses on education and text anxiety. With, you know, bullets and mutant creatures and a dispassionate, uncaring dystopian government.
Charbonneau writes engagingly, whether she is using early exams -- stressful, but not so deadly -- to educate readers about her post-apocalyptic world or describing desperate escapes from fellow university applicants with high ambition, low morals, and deadly weaponry. It's the latter half of the book that seems most Hunger Games like, but the author definitely puts her own spin on it. I find it more horrifying, actually, since it's not a forced battle to the death, but more like the Milgram Experiment (where people let their own judgement and morals be subsumed by authority figures) mixed with teens' desperation to better their lives and those of their families and friends by succeeding. It's pretty twisted, but I can see some of the government's logic... Even if I don't agree with it (obviously).
It's also nice to read a novel where intelligence and innovation are so central -- and not just book smarts kind of intelligence, but rather all kinds of different intelligences. It's not that this is a very cerebral book -- the characters feel like real people, talk like every day people, have similar problems (though, perhaps, some of the characterization gets a little shaky at the end). It's just that this society values what intelligence can do for their civilization. It's the answer to the world's problems.
Let's see... What else to say? Well, this is the first book in a planned trilogy (looks like book two comes out in six months, so I'm excited!). Oh, yeah, and the sense of paranoia in this book creates fantastic tension. I think it's done so well. It's really impossible to know who the protagonist can trust and what the government really hopes to get out of these tests... I also really love an implication at the end about how people work.
This is well worth a read!