Gone are the days where I would hide under my covers late at night with this months Burger King toy that had a light and the latest attention grabbing book I got from the library. In-between growing older and more responsible, I no longer have to hold a light under a flashlight to read what I want and staying up late to read books for fun has been less and less of a priority since I moved through college and graduate school.
Yet this morning close to 1 A.M. I found myself stuck to the screen of my iPad as I slide digital page past digital page, my eyes scanning, my imagination… imagining… My intention was to only read a couple chapters of my book last night before sleeping. Yet I found myself rolling over, curling into a ball and sitting up anxiously as I pulled into the last 100 pages of Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing.
Yeah, I have been on a Young Adult Fiction kick, especially dystopian YA fic. I like the idea of alternate universes and potential futures. Perhaps it started when I read Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, or Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, but I think dystopian fiction is a great warning for our society. It is always interesting to see where different writers go with their ideas and worlds. Sometimes they thrill me, sometimes they scare me and sometimes they are simply incredibly engaging stories.
Charbonneau’s The Testing is no exception to this love I have for dystopian literature, and I would put in in the category with the best of dystopian fiction. The book started off slow, winding through a post apocalyptic Michigan. Humanity has started over, with small cities and villages that each have a varied number of University educated students. To get into the University, one must first go through The Testing. Simple enough, right? I mean, students go through the ACT and SAT all the time.
Wrong. This is nothing like the ACT or SAT. This is a vicious, fight-for-your life roller-coaster of never-ending challenges to ensure students have what it takes to be a leader in the new world, after the fall-out of a seven-stage war has ended.
The Five Lakes settlement has not had a testing Candidate for over a decade now, so our heroine, Cia, is not just surprised she is picked, but three of her classmates are chosen to go too. After her father warns her to not trust anyone, she uses her skills and abilities to gain an incredible sense of what is around her.
With brilliant attention to detail, sharp plot twists and wicked reimagining of a future grim landscape – replete with near-accurate description of summer plains heat, and the exhaustion that can evict from a traveling individual – Charbonneau weaves a story of suspense that progressively and sneakily moves from a slow start to an irresistible page-turner.