When teens go crazy for a book or a book series, it’s a school librarian’s dream come true. But with the success of one series, next comes the pressure of finding something similar to keep the reading momentum going. For the last few years, I’ve been chasing The Hunger Games and Divergent, digging through dystopian lit in search of the next epic YA page-turner. Well, dystopian fans and those who love them: look no further than The Testing series, by Joelle Charbonneau.
The Plot (Book One, No Spoilers)
Malencia (Cia) Vale is thrilled to learn that she has been chosen for The Testing, the rigorous process that candidates endure to qualify for the one remaining University. She has longed to follow in her father’s footsteps, and to leave her small, quiet Five Lakes Colony to see Tosu City, as well as the wider world that an education from The University can bring. But as she leaves, her father warns her to be extremely cautious. The Testing and the people who run it are not always as they seem. When the extreme and potentially dangerous Testing process begins, Cia sees that the stakes are much higher than she thought–and that her father might have been trying to protect her from hidden evil.
The Answer to Your “Hunger Games problem”
The Testing series has many similarities to both The Hunger Games and Divergent. Yet it is different enough to hold even a reluctant reader’s interest.
Readers will find a similarly powerful female protagonist, one with a specialized set of skills that makes her particularly exceptional in her new environment. Governmental corruption and conspiracy drive the action to continually new heights. Readers experience plot twists that drive the story at moments that otherwise would be routine. Hints of romance bloom between Cia and her old Five Lakes friend, Tomas, but never distract from the primary story. The books have similarly high levels of violence as The Hunger Games. The book covers even bear some resemblance to their dystopian predecessors.
With this series, teachers and parents will once again find their students reading for fun and asking for books as gifts. And with the film rights optioned by Paramount, the odds of seeing this trilogy become a movie series are high. I’ve field-tested the series with the students at my high school, and it has been a huge success. All of my copies are currently flying through the 9th grade at rapid speed.
Interest Level: Grades 7-12 (violence is prevalent, making it questionable for younger readers)
Reading Level: Accelerated Reader 5.6; Lexile 830L
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Awards: YALSA Quick Pick Top Ten 2014, Anthony Award 2014
Bethany Bratney (@nhslibrarylady) is a National Board Certified School Librarian at Novi High School. She reviews YA materials for School Library Connection magazine and for the LIBRES review group. She is an active member of the Oakland Schools Library Media Leadership Consortium as well as the Michigan Association of Media in Education. She received her BA in English from Michigan State University and her Masters of Library & Information Science from Wayne State University.