This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge.
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau was one book that I was definitely not expecting to like. It sounded like such a rip off of The Hunger Games and I had already read and enjoyed many a book in the dystopian genre like Divergent, Matched, and Legend. As a teen librarian I was done with the female heroine and her future world of chaos and series books in general. I felt as if I had read enough from the genre to recommend to readers, and then The Testing came along.
I ignored its flashy cover and talk from my friend who is a teen librarian recommending it to me as well. She had originally recommended Divergent to me many months before it became well-known so I probably should have listened to her. Still, I was set on ignoring it. Then the book came up on The Hub’s 2014 Reading Challenge list and I thought I would give it a try, it was becoming evident that I couldn’t avoid it forever.
I was amazed at how fast the book sucked me in. The scenes were so vivid that I found myself even more disturbed (in a good way) than I ever was reading The Hunger Games. I had assumed the book to be more juvenile than The Hunger Games, (more like the Matched series) but I think it borders on an older teen audience with some of the graphic depictions. Think: eyeballs being torn out… I was hooked and wanted to read the next book in the series. Go figure.
I picked up the second book, Independent Study, on audiobook. When I had the chance to go to the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo for work a couple of months ago I was excited to see that Joelle herself was going to be signing books! I eagerly bought a copy of The Testing and was first in a short line of only five people to have Joelle sign my copy. I guess all of the comic book fans were too into artists’ and washed-up television stars’ signatures to stop by the authors’ booths! I immediately began a conversation with Joelle about how creepy the book was. She admitted to being creeped out too…by her own writing. I thought this was great and she mentioned that she hadn’t listened to the audiobook versions yet. I ended up recommending Independent Study on audiobook to its own author! How great is that?
I was definitely surprised with how connected I became to the main character and her struggle to survive. The writing was extremely detailed, and seemed darker than previous dystopian novels, which was a nice change. It didn’t gloss over the fact that teenagers were being purposely killed. It went into some gory details that show the reality of the situation and make you feel as if you are truly a part of a dangerous game â€“ the game of survival â€“ right alongside the characters.