Series Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:


Synopsis for The Testing (from Goodreads):

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 and 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 honoured 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 gruelling (and deadly) day of the Testing.

To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.


Series: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 The Testing Guide

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2013 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually think The Testing (#1) is the first book I added to my TBR by Charbonneau; I saw it as a freebie on Amazon one day and downloaded it. But I ended up reading (and enjoying) her Dividing Eden Series first. When my library added the audiobooks for this trilogy last year, I was excited to give this series a try! It has been a long time since I read a dystopian novel and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

The Concept / The World:

If the Hunger Games and Divergent had a baby, I feel like it would be this book. It reminded me a little of the construction of the Red Queen where it is a mash-up of everything you expect in the genre (only the Red Queen is high fantasy). Yet at the same time, everything here felt unique and refreshing in a way. It’s a really cool world to explore and it has so many layers to it–but you don’t realize that is the case right away either which I think is a lot of fun.

The Plot:

At the start of The Testing (#1), this book felt really “young teen” or middle age dystopian to me. I think I got that impression thanks to the naïve vibes I was getting from our heroine, Cia. Of course, she’s naïve because society wants her to be that way, not because she is unintelligent. (More on that below!)

Once the true nature of the testing is revealed and the more sinister edge to this world takes center stage. This series doesn’t have a lot of physical action compared to others in the genre. Yes, parts of the testing has physically dangerous elements but I found everything was rooted more in logic and thinking and testing the characters that way. It almost reads like Divergent, only if you focused more on the politics of the world than the physical battle for it.

However, I felt a little let down in how everything progresses. I kept waiting for a big reveal to take things to the next level. And while there are some great twists that I really didn’t see until they were just about to be revealed, they were just a little underwhelming for me.

The Characters:

Perhaps I am in the minority for this: but I loved how Cia’s character evolved as the series progressed. One thing that I thought was interesting about her character is that she really isn’t emotionally driven like some heroines we meet in this genre, but more moral based. Although she has a strong moral compass, she definitely isn’t devoid of feelings. She’s an intelligent, logical girl who really tackles everything that comes her way by thinking things through. I appreciated that she was always thinking 3 steps ahead when she made decisions and could see the bigger picture.

To a certain extent, Cia is a bit of a special snowflake heroine and I know that irks others who have read this series. For some reason she is singled out during the Testing when really, there isn’t anything extremely remarkable about her. But I think she works really hard to apply herself when challenges are brought her way rather than things just falling into place for her.

The Romance:

I liked that this kept me guessing a bit. It’s an interesting element to the story, particularly in the first book during the Testing. It isn’t a huge driving element to the story but another factor to consider as the plot moves on. Could it have been played upon more?–Definitely. I really thought there was a missed opportunity to have this element take things to the next level and add a more dramatic flare to Cia’s life than the dull flare it brings.

My Audiobook Experience:

It took me a bit to get into but once I got into the story, the audiobook was addicting to listen to throughout the series. I thought the narrator did a good job bringing Cia’s character to life.

When to Read The Testing Guide (#0.5):

I didn’t read this prequel but you can likely read it at any time since the events take place years before the trilogy. If you want to read it in chronological order, then read it before The Testing (#1).

Series Rating: 3/5

[The Testing Guide N/A| The Testing 3.5/5 | Independent Study 3.5/5 | Graduation Day 3/5


Fans of dystopian YA fiction will see a lot of similarities to other books but I enjoyed the weaving of classic dystopian elements. However, I kept waiting for something amazing to happen so the conclusion felt a little lackluster to me. And I when I finished, I kinda struggled with “what was the purpose of this whole series” which isn’t the best way to end a series if you ask me.

Read if You Like: dystopian fiction, books dealing with politics
Avoid if You: want more physical action


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