The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.
The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced — and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Joelle Charbonneau, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for The Testing (first book of The Testing trilogy). The Testing is also a 2014 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.
I really loved The Testing and the way that you so vividly described your novel’s dystopian society, main character Cia’s life in it and her experience during the testing process for university student candidates. I wanted to ask you first about why you chose a dystopian environment to relate your story/themes, and whether there are any aspects of this environment which you see reflected in present-day society?
Thanks for reading The Testing! You have no idea how much I appreciate that. As for choosing the dystopian setting – to be honest, I didn’t set out to write a dystopian book. I teach voice lessons and have helped a lot of my students go through the college admittance process. Because of that, I’ve seen first hand how stressful the process has become and wanted to explore the stress of modern day tests and our society’s expectations for the next generation. However, as much as I wanted to set it in today’s world, I couldn’t find a way to up the stakes of the tests in the way that I wanted. So, I had to look to the future and a time where there is only one university and the expectation that those who attend it will be able to fix what is wrong with the world. That’s when the world of The Testing was born.
While The United Commonwealth and its issues are fictional, there are a great number of things about the world that do reflect our current society, especially in regards to our current education system. In the last fifteen years, our educational system has become very dependent on high stakes testing. So much depends on tests – school funding, teachers’ careers, and our students’ beliefs in their own abilities and futures. These tests were designed to strengthen our education system, but most teachers, parents and students would argue that it has done the opposite. While most would agree that the system needs to be altered, no one seems to know exactly how to make those changes or has the courage to say that the things we’ve been implementing over the past fifteen years are wrong. Cia’s journey in The Testing trilogy deals with those issues and explores what happens when people allow a less than ideal system to stay in place because it on some level appears to be working. Continue reading 2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Joelle Charbonneau