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The Testing Paperback – January 6, 2015
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From School Library Journal
From the Publisher
This is a trilogy. Did you know how the series would end when you began writing?
I wish I could say yes, but I really didn’t know where the whole story arc was going to take Cia. The only thing I was certain of was what I wanted the final scene to be. I knew I wanted to show the moment that occurs either during or just after college when you realize that home will always be there, but that it isn’t your home anymore. That your life is no longer just about the place where you grew up or about what you dreamed you’d be doing as an adult. It’s that moment when you understand that your life is yours and that the choices you make are the ones that will define how that life goes.
In your opinion, what are Cia’s biggest strengths? How do they help her survive?
I think that Cia’s greatest strength would also be considered a liability—her compassion and willingness to see the world for what she hopes it will be. Those traits motivate her to continue forward even when she knows there is a chance she will fail. I think so often in life, people don’t take a difficult step because there is a chance of failure. Like all of us, Cia doesn’t want to fail, but her compassion and wish to contribute to helping her society is more compelling than the fear of taking a wrong step.
Why did you choose to set this series in the Midwest?
The Midwest, to me, is an ideal place to set a dystopian society. Most people associate the Midwest with very traditional American values— values that Cia and her family embrace—so setting the series in the center of the country seemed like an obvious choice. For the center of my new government and society, I then needed to pick a city that I felt would not only survive a world war, but also could weather the environmental changes that would occur after such catastrophic manmade damage. Wichita provided an ideal location since its moderate size and location in the middle of the heartland would allow it to avoid being on an international government’s first-strike list. Also, the lack of towering skyscrapers would help much of the city’s infrastructure withstand the environmental upheaval.
All three books were published within a single year. Does your brain hurt from all that writing?
Is my editor reading this? That might change my answer. Writing the entire series posed a huge challenge. There were times that I wasn’t sure I would be up to the task, but I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to push myself. It was a unique opportunity to be able to write the story from beginning to end without feeling the expectations or anticipation of the next installment from readers. Cia, Tomas, and the world of the United Commonwealth were mine and mine alone throughout the writing process. And now I am thrilled that the readers who have joined me in the journey get to come along for this the final ride.
The series asks questions about courage, loyalty, duty, and honor. What drew you to these topics?
I am a huge civics junkie and I love debating politics. Every time an election come around, I hear people throw around words like courage and loyalty and honor all the time, but rarely do they seem to connect with what those things mean in the larger context of the world. While writing, I wanted to explore the words that our leaders use in sound bites and test what they really meant to me.
For Cia, she thinks she understands what those words mean. But it isn’t until her beliefs are tested that she truly understands the importance of loyalty and how there are different kinds of courage required in our leaders. Most people believe it takes courage to face an enemy head-on. People understand the ideas of duty and honor when the choice appears black-and-white. But I believe the greatest forms of courage happen in the choices that no one sees, and that duty and honor are most important at times where there are no good answers.
You’re a singer, an actress, and a voice coach. In what ways does this inform your writing?
When you perform on stage, you have to create a character that audiences will connect with and make sure that you perform each scene with enough energy and interest that the audience will want to come back after intermission. When I write, it often feels like a performance, because the characters have to be well-rounded and each scene has to make the reader come back for more. And since both fields involve a lot of reviews and rejection, I tend to be really good at dealing with both of those, too!
Graduation Day is the third book in the series. Do you have any advice for graduating teens?
I think a lot of graduating students feel pressured to know where their life is going and to have a plan that will get them to those predetermined goals. My best advice is to remember that life is about the journey and that learning new things doesn’t stop when you get the diploma. If you are open to taking the journey and exploring where it takes you, you’ll end up where you are supposed to be . . . even if it is the last place you ever expected. In my case, I thought I’d be singing and dancing on Broadway. Turns out, I’m behind a computer writing books. You just never know.
In general, what do you hope readers take away from this book, and the series as a whole?
Our education system has put so much value on testing. Everything relies on how well students do on tests— school funding, teacher evaluations, and our students’ belief in their own potential. If readers take one thing away from the series as a whole, I hope it is that a single test doesn’t define anyone. Test scores prove only one thing—how well a person did on that test. There is no foolproof test to determine what a student’s future should be. Futures are determined by the choices our students make along the way. To think we can create tests that provide the sum of the true measure of a person is foolhardy, and the people that suffer the most from that ill-advised belief are our children.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently typing away on a new young adult thriller that is set in a small town in Wisconsin. It involves an elite social networking site that invites teens to say what they think they need and offers them a chance to get their desire. Only there is a difference between a want and a need, and students eventually learn that sometimes the price for what we want can be too high to pay. The manuscript is currently titled 'N.E.E.D.,' and I am both excited and a little freaked as I explore the world of social media and how safe people feel sitting behind their computer screens when they think nothing they do on the Internet is truly real.
More About the Author
While Joelle is happy to perform for an audience, she is equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use her experience from the stage to create compelling characters in her books. She is the author of the NY Times and USA Today Best Selling THE TESTING TRILOGY (The Testing, Independent Study and Graduation Day) as well as the Rebecca Robbins (Minotaur Books), the Glee Club Paige Marshall (Berkley) mysteries. Her books have been nominated for the Agatha and Anthony Awards as well as listed on the YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and nominated for the YALSA Top Ten books for 2014.
To learn more, visit Joelle at her website: www.joellecharbonneau.com
Top Customer Reviews
Cia has always lived a fairly good life, better then most anyway. With a big family, all brothers, and two loving successful parents that any child would appreciate. She's been preparing for the opportunity to be chosen for The Testing. But when the time comes to graduate and become an official adult, Cia's world becomes a living nightmare.
Cia's dreams have finally come true, she's officially been chosen for The Testing!! And she can't be more thrilled. She's always hoped for the opportunity to show her government just how much she can contribute in making the Commonwealth a better place for their future. And now after all her hard work, it's finally paid off. Until The Testing actually starts and Cia finally sees The Testing for what it really is, a death trap in waiting!
Cia has no choice but to go through with The Testing, or risk treason against the United Commonwealth. And that right there could mean a death sentence in itself. But Cia's not giving up, she's smart, determined, and not easily manipulated.Read more ›
I went into this book eager and excited to learn more about this thing called "The Testing." Having Cia's father's last departing words in the summary piqued my interest, big time. Why can't you trust anyone?! What's so dark about being tested to further your education? When I got an ARC from the publisher (Thanks so much HMHKIDS!) I could not wait to dive into this world. I had to hold off for a couple of weeks due to scheduling but once I finally started reading, I couldn't set it down! School and life demanded my attention so unfortunately, I had to stop reading. But the next minute I was free, I was grabbing this book up again. Needless to say, THE TESTING doesn't disappoint!
I've seen a couple of reviewers claiming that THE TESTING is like the HUNGER GAMES. I don't necessarily agree with that statement. I'll explain why: In a post-apocalyptic world, after the deadly Seven Stages of World, Earth is left ravaged, broken, and hardly sustainable to life. A group of survivors came together, created the United Commonwealth, and started the revitalization of Earth. Fast forward a hundred years or so later, and enter Cia Vale. She lives in the Five Lakes Colony with her family and University graduate father. Without him, new species of plants would not have been developed and everyone would die. (Basically. I'm kind of stretching it a bit). When Cia is chosen for The Testing after graduation, her father is not very pleased. He's gone through it, before.
Cia and the 3 other members of her colony are the first chosen candidates from Five Lakes in years. The competition sees them as no threat.Read more ›
One of the main characters even has this to say about the plot: "I mean, why the hell would the Testing officials bring us all here just to kill us? It doesn't make any sense." No, Tomas, it doesn't make sense, and I am asking myself the same thing.
Despite my better judgment, I was curious about this book. The plot sounded like "Post-apocalyptic setting with a fight-to-the-death ACTs." I should have listened to the reviews that call this a carbon-copy of The Hunger Games except most people want to be tested after they finish their schooling, as opposed to being Reaped and knowing you'll probably die.
Which brings me to my next problem with this book. The whole testing process is really just a college entrance exam. Through inaction, the university essentially encourages the participants to lie, cheat, steal, and even kill. To them, death is a result of being wrong about something and if you died because you accidentally ate a poisonous plant, or another participant murders you, well, you should've been CONSTANTLY VIGILANT and not been killed, so the school wouldn't have wanted you anyway. Just. WHAT IS THAT. WHAT EVEN IS THAT. Beyond that, though, I'm not sure how this impacts the rest of the nation. Maybe not every colony is 100% equal to the others in terms of wealth, but I really do not think of this as a dystopia. The colonies are thriving for the most part. Leadership is encouraging research to improve the world from all the devastation of wars and natural disasters.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this whole trilogy. It was very Divergent meets the Hunger Games. Easy and great read! Highly recommend!Published 4 days ago by Heather Junker
its amazing! it has so much action and characters are well developed. Its very much like the hungers game, not the story line itself, but the action and the thrill is!Published 11 days ago by clarissagomez
I forced myself to finish this book because I don't like leaving books unfinished. The premise is good but you don't get to know the main character enough to get emotionally... Read morePublished 11 days ago by Karyn Comer
I enjoyed this book but it seemed a lot like several other books out there. One they made a movie out of.Published 18 days ago by Mamavon
When I first purchased this, I was a little hesitant. It seemed so... Hunger Gamesish, which itself was so Battle Royaleish. Read morePublished 23 days ago by Sunhi Laub
After reading all three books, it is my opinion that they are a cross between "Divergent" and "The Hunger Games" with a slight twist to separate it from the two. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bethany
This was a really fun book to listen to. I usually just listen while on the work commute, but I found myself finding time whenever possible to listen. Read morePublished 1 month ago by mapleleafmanny