Review: The Testing

Oh, The Testing. You had so much potential.


synopsisStolen from Goodreads:

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.


Early in the book, I felt fairly engaged in the story. Cia was nervous about her graduation day and was expressing the emotions and events of the day. I think, in hindsight, I might have noticed some of the strangely simplistic writing style, but was not too bothered by it. I think writing in such a way can sometimes help convey a certain tone.

But seriously, you can’t carry an entire young adult book in such a fashion. And what’s especially bad is when the writing style makes one feel so far removed of the story that is being told in first person and present tense. Here’s an example from chapter 6:

We sing favorite songs. Tomas and I perform a duet that we learned in school. The words speak of the hope of springtime and the world being born anew. Our two voices entwine and echo in the hall. The officials cleaning up after the meal stop and listen to us. When we go back to our rooms we all walk lighter. The lightness stays with me even as Ryme expresses relief that tomorrow’s exam will send people packing. And when I sleep with my bag tucked tight to my chest I spend the night free of dreams.

A summary of events like this is fine from time to time. But it keeps happening. From chapter 7:

Tomas is more than willing to leave his bench and take a look. Zandri and Malachi laugh at us as we poke around the pump, but after a while they fall into quiet conversation, leaving Tomas and me to our own devices.

Tomas thinks the problem might be the impeller. I guess the motor. We decide to remove the pump to find out who’s right. Tomas uses my knife to unscrew the pump from its base, and we head to the shore. A few minutes laterm we have the cover off and I give a shout of victory. The impeller is perfect. The motor has a loose connection. I tinker with it for a while and think I have the problem licked. Tomas puts the cover back on and installs the pump back in the pond. Minutes later, water shoots into the air, soaking us both.

Problem solved.

We lie on the grass, letting the sun dry on our clothes, and I try to hang on the happiness I feel whenever I make something work.

Simple sentence structure. Summary of events. The lack of dialogue. It feels awfully distant. And boring. Perhaps it is all a matter of style. It just strikes me as odd, however, that the beginning of the story feels so distant, when towards the end, it finally starts to feel a little closer to the action and I start to actually feel some of Cia’s emotions.


I think Nikki of There Were Books Involved explained the tone for most of the book very well in her DNF Q&A of the book: “For some reason I found myself totally distanced from the story and feeling like there was very little emotion to it; Cia may have said she was feeling nervous/scared/relieved, but I never felt those emotions reflected in her actions or narration. And despite the book being in the present tense, I didn’t feel like Cia was telling us about these events and her feelings as she experienced them – her clinical tone felt oddly distanced from the present tense narrative. It ended up coming across as emotionless, to me. I also found Cia’s tendency to describe conversations (rather than actually include dialog) a little odd.”

I kept reading, however, because I bought the book, and also because I really wanted to believe that it got better. Unfortunately, it got worse before it got better, but it did get better eventually.

One of the tests involves the testers being dumped off 700 miles from Tosu City (the Capitol city, where they are doing the testing) and they have to find their way back. They are not told to kill other contestants, but they have the option of taking weapons and they have the option to kill if they wish. This felt ripped off from The Hunger Games as it really didn’t make sense in the context of the book. Unlike The Hunger Games, however, most of this portion of the book was pretty boring.

Towards the end of this test I was finally interested in what would happen. After the testing is over it’s a little hit or miss, but the ending did actually left me thinking about maybe reading the next book, after being convinced for the vast majority of it that I would not be doing so.

As far as characters go, I liked Cia well enough. She’s no Katniss, but I didn’t find her unlikable. I didn’t love her love interest Tomas, however. He seemed bland on the surface, and then I hate that as she is telling herself she is not sure she can trust him, she’s still like, “Oh well, I’ll kiss him!” Meh.

I give the vast majority of the book a 2, but towards the end it creeps up to more of a 3. So ultimately, it seems fair to settle at 2.5 stars.

2.5starsHave you read The Testing? What were your thoughts? Or what book did you think showed potential but just didn’t completely work for you? 

Thanks to Alice in Readerland‘s recent review with sleepy kitty GIFs, I was inspired to add my own to this review. 🙂


Content Advisory

Some mild language, no sexual content (other than a steamy kiss and a mentioned desire for “more), some violence.

16 thoughts on “Review: The Testing

  1. I’m about 70 pages into this so far, and I’m enjoying it. I think the world is interesting, but I’m finding the romance to be a little odd. And I like Cia, but you’re right, she does seem kind of distant. I definitely need to finish it to form a better opinion, but thanks for your honest thoughts!

    • I thought the world was interesting too, I think that was the main thing that held my interest when the characters seemed distant. And the romance was really odd how it “developed.” I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts when you finish it!

  2. I haven’t read this novel but it has been on my TBR for quite some time.
    The short, choppy sentences are really quite odd, and I don’t think I am a fan. I guess I’ll have to read the novel to really find out.
    I loved your cat gifs – they were so cute 😀

    • There are a lot of short, choppy sentences, especially in the first half of the book. But the story is interesting; I wouldn’t necessarily not recommend it if you were already planning to read it. I’ll be be interested to hear your thoughts when you read it!

      And yes, I’m not a big GIF person, but who can resist sleepy kitties? 🙂

  3. Dang, what a let down. I’m amazed you made it all the way through the book. With writing/narration like that, I can see why Nikki DNFed it! I would not have been able to force myself through an entire book like that. (To be honest, I couldn’t even read the excerpts you posted in full!)

    • Two things kept me going: 1.) Really wanting to see the story turn out well and 2.) The fact that I bought it with my money. Like I said, it seemed to get better towards the end but yeah, it was not award-winning writing by any means. When I see published writing like this it makes me a little sad, but at the same time a little hopeful because I think I can write better. 🙂

  4. The Testings seems to be more of a show than tell kind of book… I really hate it when a characters goes on like, “I did this, he said that, we did the other thing…” and etc. I think someone compared this book with THG or Divergent… I’m not sure, but I remember them saying that this was a not very successful version of one of the books I mentioned. I think I’ll sit this one out -__-

    • Yes, I agree about not liking when the character just says what happens, and it seems like sloppy writing to me. It’s definitely not on the same level as Divergent or The Hunger Games, though the premise did have the potential to be.

  5. I haven’t read it, and I definitely have no plans on doing so after reading this review! I can’t handle another dud after forcing myself through The Wolves of Mercy Falls series! I read through both quotes you typed up and I cannot imagine reading a whole book like that. It really does feel simple and disconnected, and not as if you’re actually in the moment. I don’t know, it was really odd! Add in the Hunger Games rip off and just the overall boringness and eh, I think I’ll pass. But reading the review was worth it, especially for those GIFs (I don’t even like cats that much, but aww, look at them)!

    • I’m so glad other people are seeing what I am saying about the writing in this book. I even read that second passage out loud to my husband and I was like, “Does this seem just totally simplistic and disconnected to you?” And he agreed that it definitely was. I really hate to say bad things about an author’s writing, but it just felt like second grade level to me. Somewhere towards the end it did start to feel a little better, but yeah, I wouldn’t really recommend it to someone who was not already determined to read it.

      And yes, it’s impossible to resist sleep kitties! 😀

  6. Phew, thought I was the only one who thought that this book was MEHHHHHHH. Besides the writing style, I couldn’t stop comparing this to THG. It was a VERY bad bad bad imitation of THG. There was def. no reason for the students to be sent off in the middle of nowhere and for them to get back to wherever. The romance was BLEGH. Didn’t like this book at all. There’s a massive room for improvement.

    Little Book Star

    • Yes, I really don’t understand why they couldn’t just stick with the intellectual tests, or maybe do some sort of physical challenge on a smaller scale. There was definitely no reason for it to get violent like THG. The more I think about this book after the fact, the less convinced I am about reading the following books, unless I hear they are a drastic improvement over the first.

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