The world is trying to rebuild after The Seven Stages War. Most major cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have been decimated. The buildings and houses are in ruins, and the water is so contaminated that it cannot be purified. Malencia Vale, Cia to her family and friends, lives in Five Lakes a small colony. Each year the government of the United Commonwealth evaluates the scores of all the graduates. The highest ones are chosen and taken to the Testing Center where they are put through four different tests. Only twenty make it to The University each year. This year graduation day comes and goes with no word from a Tosu City official. Cia is worried because she knows she did well enough to get selected. The day after graduation Cia and three others are told they have been selected to go through the testing. They leave the following morning. Cia breaks the news to her family. Her dad, who also went through the testing, tells her about nightmares he's had about people he may have known during The Testing. He tells her not to trust anyone including Tomas, her closest friend, who is also going for The Testing. The four of them are some of the last testing candidates to arrive, and all the others are buzzing about the four from Five Lakes. Five Lakes hasn't had a testing candidate, let alone four, in over ten years.
Everyone is divided up and the testing begins. Phase one tests their knowledge of History, Math, Reading and Language, and Science. Some candidates don't come back after phase one, including Cia's roommate Ryme, who kills herself. Phase two has boxes brought in and all the candidates in the group are to complete one box and then start a new one. They are to complete as many as they can in the time given. Several more candidates don't return after phase two. Phase three tests how well the candidates work together in groups. After this test the remaining candidates are told whether they pass or not. Out of the initial one hundred and eight candidates only fifty-nine remain after three phases of testing. The fourth phase is the longest and difficult. The candidates will be put in an area that hasn't been revitalized and travel back to Tosu City. The starting point of this journey is Chicago. Cia and everyone else remaining have to travel 700 miles to just outside of Topeka, Kansas. This phase will test every strength and weakness Cia and all the other candidates have. This phase is the true test to see who is fit to go on to the university and then become leaders of the world.
I loved this book. After I finished reading it, especially the last chapter, I had chills running down my spine. When I added this book on Goodreads, I glanced at the first few reviews and people were saying The Testing was The Hunger Games rehashed. While I did see some similarities to The Hunger Games, this book is it's own story. Fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopian novels will enjoy this book. There is a sequel coming out in January of 2014 called Independent Study. I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel.