What if grades and test results determined the rest of your life and there was nothing you could do about it? For teens and preteens who are aggravated at the numerous important testing regimens in the education system (EOGs, SAT, ACT, etc. etc.), this series will be both familiar and horrifying. A more middle grade The Hunger Games/Divergent read-a-like that is furiously fast-paced, the Testing series describes a dystopian United States which is now a series of colonies after a great war. One girl stands in the balance towards a revolution or a civil war.
In the rural Five Lakes Colony, Malencia “Cia” Vale longs to be a chosen candidate for the Testing, a rigorous exam necessary for entry into the University at Tosu City, because she wants to help mend the destruction caused by the Great War. Upon her graduation from high school, she and three others from her colony are selected for the Testing. The catch? There are over 100 candidates vying for only 20 spots at the University. Before Cia was a Testing candidate, her father, who had graduated from University and gone through the Testing, told her how his memories of the Testing were wiped but he managed to keep a few. She should trust no one and think about everything. Though one of the tests is on paper, the next two progress quickly and have dire, maybe fatal, consequences for candidates who fail. For the final test, it is a matter of survival in a controlled testing environment, the wilds outside of Tosu City that are contaminated with biological weapons, chemical warfare, and unknown beings exposed to radiation. Her only ally is Tomas, one of her colony-mates, and even he makes Cia nervous. She has to trust someone because now that she’s in the Testing, she must succeed or die trying.
Cia is now a University student, as is Tomas, only instead of going into the mechanical studies track, she was put into Government, much to her disappointment and surprise. There she must compete against her fellow new members, a few from the colonies but more from Tosu City who did not have to go through the Testing, and get a good internship or she’s as good as dead. To make matters worse, she remembers part of her Testing and if the examination board finds out, she will be Redirected and secretly disappear or be killed. No matter the consequences to herself, she’s determined to save the United Commonwealth from the brutal horrors behind the Testing and University. However, are her methods to judge the truth and her allies just as morally wrong as the government’s? Cia must make smart choices to survive and beat her competition or more people will be killed in the name of the greater good.
Cia’s final and highest stakes test is here. Two factions are about to wrestle for control over the United Commonwealth and the Testing. Cia must find her allies and embrace her calling as a leader much earlier than planned. As the President’s assistant, Cia is perfectly poised to see both sides but also be in a lot of danger as political factions wage civil war. It’s a murky battle of he-said, she-said. Cia must discover who is telling the truth and who deserves to die because she is the key to the revolution ahead. It will take loyal allies and great courage to do the right thing but there can be no more waiting. It’s graduation day.
While this series was certainly entertaining and kept me on my toes, I just didn’t find it as emotionally wrenching or captivating as The Hunger Games or Divergent. It seemed to be as easy as an already smart character simply finding her own two feet and standing on them, which is great as an empowering message, but might have been resolved too simply for me. I spent the greater part of the three books half terrified for Cia and mostly distrusting Tomas. Well, I won’t reveal what really happens, but my expectations didn’t, which is both good and bad; there didn’t seem to be as many consequences as I thought there should have been. For this reason, this is particularly great for middle grade readers as it does not have any sexual situations, does have romance, and lessens the brutal death from THG but also gives a satisfying ending. Don’t expect this to be your new favorite series but it is worth a read.