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Review: The Testing By Joelle Charbonneau

5 Jun

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust

Summary via GoodReads

I’m a long time fan of the dystopian genre but even I acknowledge that there isn’t a lot new themes to mine from the genre. The Testing certainly doesn’t explode the genre or give us much in the way of “newness” but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If it had been published two or three years earlier, when the dystopian genre was new, I think it would have stood out even more in my mind than it does now.

This book has two things going for it that really set it apart from the myriad books in the dystopian section of the library: the sense of pacing that the author manages to execute and a very interesting main character who is given her own distinct voice and really drives the book.

This book is compulsively readable. I put the book down once and then didn’t put it down again. I told myself I was only going to read one more chapter and one more chapter turned into 100 more pages. The pacing of the test is incredibly well done. I thought there was a real sense of danger to the protagonist. I do think that an even more chilling atmosphere could have been created.

Cia, the protagonist, was awesome. She had flaws but what she clearly was a Leader with a capital L. People followed her in spite of her flaws, people perceived her as dangerous in spite of her naiveté. She is clearly a force to be reckoned with even if she does not realize it for most of the book.

I also thought that this book did a good job of touching on the post-apocalyptic genre which gave some depth to the standard dystopian theme.

Finally, I appreciated the lack of love triangle.

All in all, this was one of my favorite dystopian reads, if the rest of the series is as strong as this first book was then it has a chance to become my favorite dystopian trilogy-even ranking about The Hunger Games.

Is this book perfect? Of course not but it is certainly worth your time especially if you like strong heroines and dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Review: The “America In The King Years” Trilogy By Taylor Branch

1 Apr

Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years Trilogy: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, At Canaan’s Edge

In the few short minutes of his first political address, a power of communion emerged from him that would speak inexorably to strangers who would both love and revile him, like all prophets. He was twenty-six, and had not quite twelve years and four months to live.
Parting the Waters, p 142

It was difficult for me to finish this series. I struggled to read the last book because I didn’t want to know what happened, though, of course, I already know what happened.

This book succeeded on several levels: in being detailed without being bogged down in minutia, in covering the breadth of its subject without resorting to broadness, in humanizing the people of The Movement, in recounting the terror and hardship that they faced. It was certainly a towering achievement of popular history. I learned more than I ever realized I didn’t know.

But what this book did, above all else, was it made me care. The people of this history are people. They are not historical actors or names that I write on notecards and dutifully memorize. They are fully realized people who I root for and mourn for. Branch creates a sense of immediacy that makes this book much closer to a story of The Movement than a more conventional historiography. This book isn’t a study, it’s a story.

My only criticism of this series would be the way it boarders on a hagiography of King. This does detract from the strength of the book. King becomes a character. There is a veneration of him that interferes with the author’s attempts to humanize him and creates a certain flatness to his presence in the book. The series, especially the final book, venerates King to the detriment of the series. This hagiography is even more noticeable when compared to the books treatment of the other participants in the Civil Rights Moment and those who intersected with the Movement.

Even with that reservation, I would never hesitate to suggest this book to anyone with an interest in history.

Taylor Branch @ Goodreads