Category Archives: Teen

Romancing the Unusual

Two more books added to the list over the past couple of days, but I can’t say I’m giving them stellar reviews.  One is old.  One is new.  Both get three stars from me.


OLD: Black Butler, Vol. 1

9780316080842Someone somewhere on the internet described this manga series and it sounded like one I would like.  Victorian drama in which a young earl has a butler who seemingly makes anything happen.  Crazy servants.  Criminal underground.  Oh, and the butler is actually a demon who protects the boy in exchange for the boy’s soul.  I can honestly say it sounds right up my alley, but then I read it.  And it’s fine.  I wasn’t in love with the illustrations – not that they were bad, but I just wanted something more – and the story was okay, but I felt like it could have been expanded.  And I know, I know, it’s only the first volume.  I should give it more time.  But I’m not a huge fan of manga (apparently) and coming off of reading Saga it just made me want it to be a graphic novel.  Or a regular novel.  I still like the story, but I don’t think I’m going to keep reading.


NEW: Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz9781524739621

Coming out this Tuesday, Alex and Eliza is de la Cruz’s imagining of the courtship between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.  She says in the afterword that it was inspired by seeing Hamilton, and although it’s a fine story, you can definitely tell parts that were influenced by it.  I also have a really hard time reading teen novels anymore, and to make it a historical teen romance was tough for me to give it slack.  The fact is, we don’t have much historical evidence of how their courtship went – all we know is that it was quick – so there’s every chance that she’s got it at least partially right.  I just am picky with my history.  I want to see more period-appropriate language and avoid long paragraphs of summarized history (parts of the Alex chapters sound a lot like she read a Wikipedia article about the Chernow biography and, while I appreciate the effort, it doesn’t feel natural).  So it’s a quick read, and if you have any interest in a young Hamilton romance, it’s fine.  I mean, don’t expect any earth-shattering dialogue or moments that will make your heart flutter from the level of love these two achieve, but it’s fine.  (Also, spoiler alert, it ends at their marriage, so you don’t have to worry about the historical conclusion to their relationship.  You know, the whole I cheated on you with Maria Reynolds and there was huge fallout from that and then I ended up getting in a duel with Aaron Burr (sir) after our son died in a duel and you were at my bedside when I died from the wound I suffered at the hands of Burr (sir).  That’s not in this one.)  Maybe it’s even really good and it’s just that I’ve outgrown teen romances.  Who knows.  Either way, if you wanted to read it, you’ll probably enjoy it anyway.


OTHER BOOKS I’M GOING TO BE WORKING ON

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons – I got to meet her briefly at the NCIBA Spring Workshop this past weekend and she’s totally sweet.  Plus, the book looks pretty good.  I just started it (only about twenty pages in) but the writing is good and I’m really intrigued by what’s going to happen.

You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education by George Anders – Also got to meet this author at the Spring Workshop, and he is just delightful.  We chatted for a while about how this is the book I need in my life right now because I need to be reminded that I’m going to find something that works for me.  He was so kind and so encouraging that I’m very excited to read it.  (I swear, I will read it soon.  I just have to get through some other books first.  My stack has grown somehow…)

I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald – I’m putting this on the list because it comes out at the end of this month and I.  Am.  So.  Freaking.  Excited.  Anything Fitzgerald is good in my book, and the fact that these are stories that haven’t been published before – I can’t express how excited I am.  Oh, wait.  I can.

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(It seems like any emotion I try to express can be done through Tom Hiddleston.  There’s a reason I love this man.)

As I try to tackle the enormous stack of books on my nightstand, I’ll try to keep updating here, although I won’t guarantee it will be timely or coherent.  Only time will tell.  Until next time, read on and support your local indie!

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Reading Challenge 2016: Update

Well, well, well.  Another day, another celebration of Harry Potter.  Having just survived a really fantastic (and completely packed) HP event at work, I decided I should show you just how far along in my challenge I am.  Spoiler: I’ve done 8/63.  Hooray!

  1. Eligible – see previous post
  2. Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke (yes, that Ethan Hawke) – Wonderful book, sweet and insightful and meaningful.  You can read it in one sitting and just enjoy it.  Seriously, get this one.
  3. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – The first pick for Emma Watson’s bookclub (Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads), this is pretty interesting.  It’s not thrilling, it’s not one that I necessarily think you should buy, but since I borrowed it from the library, it was worth reading.  As a young woman in America right now, it seems like one of those books I should read, even if I’m not sure I really needed to read it.
  4. King Edward III (allegedly) by William Shakespeare – Awesome.  I love the fact that this is one of those plays that people kind of think was written by Billy Boy because it fits his histories and it uses similar language.  I love pretty much all things Shakespeare, especially when it’s his histories, so I found this really interesting.  Also, who actually learns about Edward III?  Not me.  Fun, worth reading, short.  It’s a play, too, so occasionally it’s fun to read aloud to yourself…
  5. Lumberjanes (Vol. 1) by Noelle Stevenson – Fun comic series, lots of girl-power moments.  Love the illustrations and am interested in Vol. 2.  Maybe I’ll add that to another list…
  6. The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine – COMING FEB. 16TH.  One of my coworkers snagged the ARC for this book and said I’d enjoy it, so I borrowed it and will freely admit I read it in two days because it’s a fun teen read.  Redwine is retelling Snow White, and it’s in the style of Snow White and the Huntsman, but it’s how that movie should have been.  No mopey K-Stew. with her weird faces, but instead a legitimately badass princess who’s trying to save her kingdom.  Also love the prince in this (spoiler: he can turn into a dragon!) and how the fairytale is dealt with.  Worth a read if you’re in the mood.
  7. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – While it’s not as charming as A Walk in the Woods (which had me howling with laughter just about every page), it’s still Bryson, so it’s still utterly delightful.  This time he’s going around Britain, trying to see the most he can.  He has such hilarious insights into the quirks of cultures and the utter strangeness of human beings generally, plus this time it’s British, so obviously I’m going to love it.  A fun book, and worth reading especially now that the “sequel,” The Road to Little Dribbling is now available.
  8. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – One of my all-time favorite books, and the book upon which I am writing my thesis.  Obviously, I love it.  And I recommend it.  Because it’s delightful.  As is the BBC 2004 adaptation starring Richard Armitage.

So… 8/63.  Looking pretty good for it being only February.  Notice I have not yet attempted to take on the 500+ page challenge, nor have I chosen the book that “intimidates” me.  We shall see how this goes.

Meanwhile, I’m working on The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, the delightful wife of the completely fantastic Neil Gaiman (!!!).  It’s charming and meaningful and completely enjoyable.  It also makes me often want to say aloud, “I’ve so been there!”  I think I’m counting this as my “self improvement” book, because I’m feeling like if she’s done it, I can do it.  And by “it,” I mean survive the world in which we live.

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Catch a Falling Star

Catch-a-Falling-Star-Kim-CulbertsonLet me begin by saying that it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that really emotionally sucker-punches me (in a good way).  And it’s been an even longer time since that book has been aimed at teenagers.

But this is that book.

Kim Culbertson’s Catch a Falling Star is a must-read for everyone, but especially for any girl in a small town.  Because this is all about the dreams we make when we live in tight-knit communities.

I was reading this in public and found myself trying desperately not to laugh (barely succeeded) and even more desperately not to cry (completely unsuccessful at about three points, one of which was the last page).

So here’s the basic gist: Carter Moon (budding astrologer) is happy in Little, CA where she works at the family cafe, hangs out with her friends, and teaches dance to senior citizens.  But then a film crew invades Little to film a Christmas movie and the star is none other than Hollywood heartthrob Adam Jakes.  Adam needs some good PR, and hiring Carter to pretend to be his girlfriend seems like the best solution to both their problems: he’s seen with a sweet small-town girl and she gets a healthy check to help out her family.  But what happens when Carter realizes there’s more to Adam than the tabloids say, and that there might even be more to her than she knows?

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that this sounds like a pretty normal teen romance plot.  And, if we’re looking at the very basic structure of “girl meets boy, romance and misunderstandings ensue,” then you’d be right.  But there’s so much more to this than what I’ve seen recently in teen romances.

For starters, there’s not really a love triangle!  I mean, there are elements of it (Adam, of course, has a past with some other superstars), but there’s no teen-angst-“Does he love me or do I love him or am I really in love with my best friend of sixteen years who I haven’t noticed until this new guy showed up?” triangle.  And that makes such a huge (and welcome) difference.

Another thing to love: Carter’s fantastically real.  All the characters are.  And maybe it’s because I’m another small town girl, but it seems to me that everybody knows someone who’s like one of Little’s locals.  But I especially found myself nodding along with what Carter says and feels – she’s a normal teenager who’s been thrust into a crazy situation.  And there’s also a fantastic side story with her family that just works.

And here’s what I think is the real kicker: this is a smart book.  These people aren’t caricatures or stereotypes – they have depth and layers and flaws.  There are allusions to Tolkien.  There are moments that make you question how you see Hollywood and the tabloids.  And what I love most of all is that, in this smart book where our teenagers aren’t consumed with the need to be prom queen and instead are trying to figure out (as almost all real teens do) their next steps in life, you realize just how human everyone is.  Celebrities and small-town high schoolers, big brothers and Hollywood agents – we all have dreams, and we all need help sometime.

So this is why you need to read this book: because for all its sweetness and fluffy romantic moments (which would be perfect in a movie… hint hint…), the heart of Catch a Falling Star is in its beautiful moments of humanity.  It may be classified as a teen romance, but everyone should read it, if only to remind us that every once in a while, we all need to take a moment to look at the stars.

Catch a Falling Star will be released April 29, 2014.  For more, check out IndieBound and Kim’s website.

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United We Spy

GG6-finalToday was a big day for teen books.  If you didn’t know that, let me remind you: Maggie Stiefvater’s Book 2 of The Raven Boys: The Dream Thieves.  If you’re confused or curious, check out the previous post.

But as awesome as The Dream Thieves is (and let me tell you, it really is awesome, there’s a major book release that I was almost more excited about.  THE FINAL GALLAGHER GIRL BOOK CAME OUT TODAY!!!

I want to begin by saying that United We Spy was AMAZING, but in no way able to be fairly compared to Out of Sight, Out of Time.  OoSOoT dealt with some pretty serious stuff, namely potentially real issues a spy would face.  And that book is the one I firmly assert is the best of the entire series, both in writing and plot.

But United We Spy is the most excitingly happy book in the series, and I’m just grinning as I’m thinking about it again.  This is another one I really don’t want to spoil, so I’ll try to avoid most of the important stuff.  The essential plot boils down to this: after #5, which was a long hard slog through emotional turmoil and betrayals and danger and excitement, #6 is the conclusion of Cammie’s education at Gallagher Academy.  She teams up with her friends for the last time in her school career, she has more romantic moments with a certain boy, and she deals with adults who complicate her life.

Now, I’ve been on a Harry Potter kick for the past couple of weeks, so I’m sorry about the comparison, but here it is: UWS is in no way similar to the conclusion of Rowling’s series.  As I told my sister before giving her my copy to read, the major characters make it through unscathed, and the bad guys have things happen.  I won’t say that everything is just and fair, but I think it’s important to say that Cammie makes it out alive, as do her mom and Joe.

Now let me pause for a minute in an unrelated tangent: I love Joe Solomon.  I really do.  He is the only character in the entire series (except for Rachel and Cammie) whom I have loved unconditionally no matter what.  He is the kind of awesome man I want to be friends with, and the kind whom I would love to marry someday.  Just because he is that cool.  And if he hadn’t made it through the book alive, I wouldn’t have read it.  I would have thrown it through a window and yelled and cried and written a very angry letter to Ally Carter.  So that’s why I have no problem spoiling the plot a little.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows made me forever fear the final book in a series.  I don’t ever want to read another series conclusion that has a cast of brilliant characters, 99% of whom appear dead in a chapter as a passing thought.  “And Harry returned from dealing with all sorts of emotional turmoil, only to find everyone whose name he ever knew was dead in the Great Hall.”  Yeah, not really my cup of tea.  So the fact that United We Spy sees a pretty happy ending for the good guys is exactly what I wanted.

I think it’s also fair to point out that, at the beginning of this series, Cammie was young and adorable and innocent, and up until OoS, it was a pretty sweet series.  In OoS, though, we ran into a darker vein of the life of a spy, namely the dangers that one cannot escape.  I was worried that that’s why Carter would make UWS a darker book.  It would carry on this theme of betrayal and misery and turmoil.  But, joy of joys, it didn’t!  There’s so much humor and so many beautiful moments, I can’t even express how pleased I am with this book.  Can I just share one of my favorite moments?

“Mom!” I yelled.  “Mom, I’m–” I said, bursting through the door; but then I stopped cold because Joe Solomon was lying on the leather couch in my mother’s office.  And, oh yeah, his shirt was totally off.

“Uh…” I said.  I might have physically stumbled.  But what else was I supposed to do at the sight of my teacher – and my mom’s new sort-of boyfriend – with his shirt off?

It was epic.  It was awkward.  It was epically awkward.

Everything glorious captured in one fantastic scene.  And yes, I was excited that Joe was finally shirtless.  Not that I wanted details (the narrator is 18, and it’s her mom’s almost-kind-of boyfriend for goodness sake!), but it just took us long enough to get there!

So let me say this as my final review of the final book of this amazing series: I have loved every second of reading every book, and I am so insanely happy about how this concludes, I forgive any feeling of rushed plot or twists I didn’t expect because it’s just made my day.  And I can’t recommend this enough.

As a side note, I know I always recommend you support your local bookstore (because it’s a topic very near and dear to my heart), but I also want to let you know that at Barnes and Noble, UWS includes an exclusive short story as a sort of epilogue to the epilogue.  I’m going to admit that I now have two copies of this book because I wanted to buy local, but I also wanted the epilogue.  I’m not saying it’s necessarily worth the second copy, but if you get the chance, give it a read – it’s a sweet little addition to a wonderful book.  And since it doesn’t change the real ending of the book, you just feel a little bit more satisfied, even though you didn’t know you could feel any happier than you already were.

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Raven Boys #2: The Dream Thieves

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Maggie Stiefvater is one of the coolest, most fantastic, most awesome human beings ever.  And she happens to be an author.  A really, really good author.  I had the chance to sit at her lunch table a few years ago when she came with Libba Bray and Meg Cabot for a Northern California indie bookstore luncheon.  It was a ton of fun, but what I really learned was Maggie is hilarious, and so wickedly smart, it only makes sense that her books are phenomenal.  And today one of the most amazing books you’ll ever read came out.  And guess who wrote it?  Oh, yeah.  Maggie Stiefvater.

Let me begin by saying that if you haven’t read The Raven Boys, you haven’t lived.  I mean, seriously.  It was so much fun and so fantastically written.  And the Welsh mythology (which isn’t always a major player in teen novels) is so cool you just have to research to try to predict what’s going to happen.  On that note, let me say now that it’s really easy to describe how I felt reading The Dream Thieves.

My.  Mind.  Was.  Blown.

People say that a lot.  So much so, in fact, that the phrase has become rather cliché and no one really believes that anything can be all that mind-blowing.

This one is actually seriously boggling.

The second RB book centers around Ronan Lynch, the bad boy of the group and the one you expect you’ll somehow come to like when you first meet him in Book 1.  I can’t figure out how best to describe him, but essentially what I felt when I was reading DT is that he starts out as a pretty Draco kind of figure (you know, you don’t want to like him but there’s something about him that you just can’t help but adore) and by the end of this book he has become a full-fledged Snape.  And, considering the fact that I consider Severus Snape to be one of the greatest creations in literature, and definitely the best character in the entire Harry Potter series, that’s saying a lot.

Essentially, if you haven’t read either one yet (and really, you should – what are you reading this for?  GO GET THOSE BOOKS!), the idea is that there are three “Raven Boys,” who attend the elite Aglionby Academy: Richard Gansey (who goes by his surname only), Adam Parrish (who attends Aglionby on scholarship), and Ronan Lynch (again, the bad boy who doesn’t really fit into the Gansey/Parrish relationship).  Gansey, the leader of the group, is on the hunt for the Welsh king Glendower, who died long, long ago.  (Side note: Glendower… remember in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, how there’s the weird Welsh magician dude?  Yeah, that’s him.  Check out the Wikipedia page for a quick overview.)  Adam is the angsty best friend who is actually resentful of Gansey, seemingly because Gansey has the ability to love, be loved, and still be wicked cool even when he’s looking for a dead Welsh dude.  And then there’s Ronan, who is kind of the fists/blood/guts/bad-ass member of the group.  And then the boys meet Blue Sargent, whose paranormal family includes her psychic mother, and who has been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die.  Period.  Blue doesn’t like the Raven Boys, but as she spends more time with the Tormented Trio, they become closer and some romance may (or may not) pop up.

So here’s my secret: I’m not going to tell you much about DT.  It’s a book that I really think you have to read in order to fully comprehend how incredible it is.  But here’s the basic gist: someone is after the Lynch boys (Ronan is one of three brothers). Gansey is still searching for Glendower.  Adam is angsty.  Blue is torn between her feelings for Gansey and Adam.  Ronan has about a million secrets he’s hiding from everyone.  There’s a creepy awful villain figure who is disturbingly awesome and has a serious kind of connection with Ronan.  And did I mention that Ronan is hiding secrets?  And, of course, there are some more twists and turns along the way that are just phenomenal.

I often tell people that books are my favorites, or that I highly recommend them, or that they’re a must read, and sometimes I mean it just slightly.  Like Mary Barton.  I love it (genuinely), and I seriously recommend it (I do, I promise), and I consider it a must read, but I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone because it’s not in my absolute top 10 books of all time.

RB is up on that list of my favorite books, but DT is absolutely on that list.  Like, the top half.  And maybe part of that is because the focus on Ronan means a much more complex reading.  But it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you read this book.

I can’t repeat this any more, so instead here are some links you should check out.  Like, right now.  Or, you know, after you pick up your copy of the book…

For more on the series from Maggie’s site, click here!  Check out IndieBound to find your local bookstore and more on the book.  And be sure to check out Maggie’s YouTube videos, like this one.

And seriously, just go and buy a copy of the dang books already!!!  🙂

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Out of Sight, Out of Time

Out_of_sight_out_of_timeI’m a huge fan of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series.  Like, I own all of them in hardcover.  But when the fifth book came out, I decided I was too involved with intellectual books for classes.  With the sixth book coming out September 17th, I decided it was about time for me to read number five.  This was assuming that I would read a few chapters a night and just take my time with it.

Considering I started it at about 5:30 and it’s now finished at 8:45, and there was a dinner break in between, we see how that went.

Out of Sight, Out of Time is quite possibly the most brilliant of the entire series thus far.  What has been so wonderful with the Gallagher Girls books is that they’re about real teenage girls who happen to be attending a school for spies.  There’s romance, there’s adventure, there’s a seriously awesome mom, and there’s the super cool teacher who reminds me of Professor Lupin every time he enters a scene (here’s looking at you, Joe Solomon!).  In this fifth installment, everything changes.

You know the ante has been well and truly upped when the book opens with Cammie unable to remember what’s happened to her – she’s been somewhere doing something with some people for four months.  And then, of course, there’s the implication of her being tortured for information she can’t remember.  And, most heartbreaking, her reunion with her worried-sick mother and best friends.

And this is all within just the first few chapters.

I think what really makes me amazed at this book is how well Carter captures the confusion of a girl who has lost time, quite literally.  The title didn’t quite work for me until I’d finished the book (the other books are amusing nods to spy culture – I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, etc.) and then it totally made sense.

In fact, I’d say it was the most brilliant title I’ve seen on a teen book in a good long time.

As is the case with most teen books, I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the important twists, but there are so many other little details that shocked me that I can forgive the rather predictable connection with the evil Cammie-hunting group, the Circle.  And probably I’ve just watched too many spy movies, so it might not have been that obvious.

And speaking of movies, let me just take a minute to applaud the amazingly cinematic action (or sleepwalking) sequences throughout the book.  WOW.

Let me reiterate: WOW.

I actually felt like I was running for my life, like I’d forgotten everything about myself, like I lost time.  It was incredible, and since it’s pretty hard to pull off, here’s to Ms. Carter and her brilliance.

I’m also still impressed by Cammie’s internal dialogue.  She has a knack for getting just the right words and expressing herself so that you totally relate.  For example:

But then a chair squeaked, and Madame Dabney asked, “How are you, Cameron?” and I had to remember that when you go to a spy school, some questions are way more complicated than they appear.

Say “I’m okay,” and you might sound like an idiot who doesn’t care she has amnesia.

Say “I’m terrified,” and risk looking like a wimp or a coward.

“My head hurts” sounds like a whiner.

“I just want to go to bed” sounds like someone too foolish or lazy to care about the truth.

But saying nothing to the faculty of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women wasn’t exactly an option either, so I took the seat at the opposite end of the table, looked my teachers squarely in the eyes, and told them, “I’m feeling better, thank you.”

Okay, so maybe this book isn’t as funny or light as the others in the series, but that’s it’s gift.  Cammie still has a sense of, not so much humor, but the necessity of humor during tense moments.  She can see things for what they are, laugh a little, and still have something meaningful to say.  I mean, she’s really developed into a bright young character over the course of five books.

The only thought I’d like to leave you with is a reminder that the sixth and final book in the Gallagher Girls series, United We Spy, is coming out SEPTEMBER 17TH (which also happens to be the day The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater comes out – WHOOOO!).  If you haven’t started this series, you should; if you haven’t read this particular book, you must; and if you’re ridiculously excited for the last one, we should probably start a club…

Want to know more about United We Spy?  Click here!

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The Testing

The TestingThe condensed review: HOLYMOTHEROFPEARLTHISISJUSTWOW!!!!!!!

With school starting back up, it seems only right to go into the world of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, which has become one of my favorite teen books in recent years.  The first thing to know (and for me to acknowledge) is that, yes, it’s very similar to The Hunger Games, but there is so much more to the story than a cheap knockoff that I just can’t praise it enough.

The novel starts out with Malencia (Cia) Vale’s graduation day.  Each year, graduates from the United Commonwealth are chosen to compete in The Testing, which chooses the best to take a place at University, where they will work toward revitalizing the world ravaged by wars and ecological destruction.  Initially, it does not appear that Cia will be chosen (it’s been years since a student from Five Lakes has been) but then she and three fellow graduates are informed that they will be leaving to join other candidates for University.

There is, of course, a love interest from her home colony (Tomas) but, unlike most teen novels, there’s no real love triangle.  Cia is down-to-earth enough to recognize that she is attracted to him, he is attracted to her, and that they can’t really allow their love to go unchecked in The Testing’s environment.  And, even more surprising, they actually work together pretty well, there’s little angst, and I actually really liked him.  This is the kind of character development that gives me hope for young adult literature.  Seriously.

Anyway, Cia’s father tells her to trust no one before she goes off to what she imagines is going to be a great experience.  She doesn’t understand why he’d say that, but of course, Dad knows best.

What’s really fascinating about the set-up of The Testing is that there are four stages to the whole thing.  The first stage is the “paper” test – anyone who remembers (or has tried to forget) standardized testing or AP tests or the SAT/ACT/GRE, you know exactly what’s going on.  This is also one of my favorite parts of the whole book because the instructor/moderator must repeat every instruction just the same so as to keep the test fair for every candidate.  And you can’t help but laugh because you remember sitting there listening to the same things every time, like “if you need to use the bathroom, raise your hand; if you need to get a drink, raise your hand; if you need to go out into the hall and cry your eyes out, raise your hand.”

The second stage is a “practical” test, including tests on machinery and knowledge of deadly plant life.  And this is another reason I love this book – even though The Testing is all about who can move on to University, Cia is knowledgeable about lots of practical things, too.  Her father (and brothers) work on revitalization efforts in Five Lakes, so she understands engines or what plants not to eat – you know, things that might be useful in a life or death situation.

Stage three of The Testing is the dreaded “group” test.  And seriously, group projects happen just like the test happens.  Maybe not the same results, but definitely the overwhelming feelings of “Should I trust this person in my group?” and “If only I could do this all by myself, I’d be just fine.”  This was one of the most intense parts of the book because it’s a lot of internal struggles about trust and honesty.  I mean, brilliantly written.

For the final stage, the parallels to The Hunger Games is pretty obvious: those candidates who have survived to this stage are put into the wilderness and must survive a journey back to civilization.  What’s different about The Testing, though, is that up to 20 candidates who make it to the end can go to University.  There’s no out and out fight to the death because only one can make it, and that makes a big difference.

And that brings me to reason #1,000,002 why I love this book: it’s not all about the horrors of killing.  It’s way more than that.  It’s about having academic smarts and practical skills and somehow managing to balance the two while still maintaining an element of humanity.  It also quietly questions the tests students experience and how the education system works – there’s a revolution that will probably happen, and probably someone’s going to say, “Hey, wait, The Testing isn’t all that great,” but it’s not the only focus of the book.

What I continue to marvel at (and I’m sure this sounds old because I’m probably just repeating myself as I keep saying I LOVE THIS BOOK) is how capably Charbonneau handles delicate subjects surrounding the testing, like the stresses of studying and the need to succeed to help your community.  One of the most haunting scenes in the entire book is when one candidate commits suicide, having crumbled under the pressure of The Testing.  It’s disturbing, that’s for sure, but it’s also painfully realistic.  Academics and the pressure to succeed in school cause all manner of stresses in life (trust me, as a recent college grad, I know), and sometimes it’s too much.  It’s the only situation in the book that makes me wonder if it’s more emotionally difficult than The Hunger Games or not, simply because it’s a much more (in my opinion) realistic.  But ultimately, I walk away enjoying this much more.

Of course, I have to put in the disclaimer that I’m more academically driven in general (come on, I’m writing book reviews for fun/stress relief), so I relate more with The Testing‘s world than that of The Hunger Games.  But, very seriously, I think the terrifying future portrayed in Charbonneau’s novel is frighteningly close to what could happen in the relatively near future.

I’m not even going to go back and re-read this review to make sure it sounds coherent (it doesn’t) or that it’s convincingly positive (it must be – every other sentence is I LOVE THIS BOOK).  Seriously, read it.  You deserve to treat yourself to something incredible.  And I promise you’ll read it voraciously.  And that, my friends, is your SAT word for the week.

For more on The Testing, check out the official website or visit your local independent bookstore for more info.

 

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