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The Testing Hardcover – June 4, 2013
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From the Publisher
A conversation with Joelle Charbonneau
The author of the best-selling Testing trilogy discusses the series, her background, and her next project.
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.
From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Like almost every 16-year-old in the United Commonwealth, Cia Vale hopes to be called for the Testing, her ticket out of rural Five Lakes Colony and into the University in Tosu City. Cia's father was selected, but only vaguely remembers the experience in nightmares. Her four older brothers were passed over. Just when she has resigned herself to life as a mechanic or farmer, she gets word that she is one of four students selected from Five Lakes and is expected to board the skimmer to Tosu City the next day, most likely never to return. The bulk of the book is taken up with the Testing-devious exercises to identify those with superior leadership skills as society has suffered through Seven Stages of War and desperately needs to repair the damage to living creatures and the environment. The mental and physical trials will weed out 80 percent of the candidates, leaving several maimed or dead. Cia teams up with Tomas for both practical and romantic reasons. She is independent and smart for the most part, and Tomas seems almost too good to be true. There are double-crosses, mutant life-forms, and booby traps to navigate before 20 hearty souls receive word that they have passed. Cia's story is expected to span a trilogy. The influence of The Hunger Games is obvious, and The Testing will satisfy readers who want similar dystopian adventures.-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Mystery writer Charbonneau throws her hat into the YA dystopian ring with this series opener that bears more than a slight resemblance to The Hunger Games. Sixteen-year-old newly graduated Cia Vale is selected to take part in The Testing, a process that offers the only chance at a college education and training to become part of the next generation of leaders. Cia has spent years preparing for this—it’s her chance to help the United Commonwealth recover from the devastating Seven Stages War. Cia’s father, who took part in The Testing himself, warns her to trust no one. Charbonneau is treading familiar ground as she sets her young heroine against a government machine that is focused, brutal, and duplicitous. Though the story moves quickly, readers might be confused as to the reasons behind the government’s methods. Why the brutality against students? There is no indication that the citizens are oppressed, and they’re unaware of how gruesome The Testing is. The ending will ensure interest in the next installment, but hopefully book two will deliver some answers. Grades 7-12. --Kara Dean
Top customer reviews
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This is a much richer and more complex story. At the end of book one, the trials of Cia and her friends are just beginning. Possibilities are still nearly endless at this point. I won't tell you any more because this is cutting into my reading time and book two awaits.
Cia lives in a world that was broken by war, torn apart by nuclear weapons, and slowly being rebuilt by the last remnants of the human populous. All Cia wants is to be chosen for the Testing. A program created by the United Commonwealth to select potential leaders in this new world. If she can pass the Testing, she will become a student at the University in Tosu City. Only the Testing isn't what it seems. It's less about passing and more about survival. Can she trust those around her? Or is she doomed to die trying?
Here's the thing, there are a lot of dystopian, post-apocalyptic adventures out there. Each one fighting for it's space on your reading shelf. However, The Testing lets you follow a dream that turns into a nightmare and shows you that it's okay to be afraid, as long as you don't stop trying, you keep going to build something new. Something that may be wonderful. I think you might like this book if you give it a chance.
cia and her classmates go through brutal testing they are not supposed to remember but somehow they do. they don't find out till its too late that they are being listened to at all times. cia takes a chance and doesn't listen to her fathers advice to not trust anyone and she sometimes trusts the wrong people.
the characters are well rounded and engaging. i found myself rooting for cia and being uneasy when she is uneasy. there is a great love story starting which adds balance to action and suspense.
Armed with her father's warnings, Cia decides to show no weakness. Along with 107 other candidates, Cia is put through 4 tests. Tests were failure means death. With no way out but to finish, Cia struggles to survive the tests and the other students.
Loved it. It is always thrilling when the main character knows that something dangerous is on the horizon, but doesn't know exactly what will happen. The reader thinks they are also prepared, but the author does a great job with plot twists and tense moments. Cia is a strong character that allows her humanity and charity to guide her actions. Of course, in dangerous tests, these same qualities can be used against a person. Cia finds out the hard way that people will go to extremes to win.
This book will thrill readers and have them turning the pages fast. I couldn't put it down. Every test Cia took had me on edge and looking for the killer catch. And then there is the romance between her and fellow colony student, Tomas. With motives in question, it is hard to know whether it is a true relationship. I enjoyed watching them work and grow together.
I've already purchased book two, Independent Study, and can't wait to get started. 5 stars!
As an almost 30 year old woman, I am a huge fan of YA dystopian novels. So, with that being said, I don't really mind that is was very close to the hunger games or what not. I have also read this, the second book, and part of this third.
Although the concept is similar to the hunger games, the delivery is much different.
In the first book, the romance starts to develop but the emphasis is not on the romance, but on survival and the history and politics. Which I liked.
The author was very good at describing how the world fell apart. It was believable as well.
I found the actually testing process interesting - it made you think what it really takes to make a good leader... This is even more apparent later in the series.
As an engineer, I like how Cia's strength is in engineer. I think she is a good role model for young women. Her morals are also very solid.
I had the audio book and I did not like the author's tone right from the beginning.
I was not as drawn into the story as other series
I did not like the main love interest as a character.
Overall I recommend this if you enjoy
Most recent customer reviews
The story was dark, creepy and engrossing. You know what else was dark, creepy, engrossing,original several years ago and EXACTLY LIKE THIS...Read more