The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!Actual rating: 2.5 starsMost of the world has become a wasteland. The world is in need of a new generation of leaders to piece society back together. But in order to become part of this group of future leaders, a select few teens are required to pass the Testing. Cia Vale is thrilled when she is selected as a candidate for the Testing. But before she leaves, her father––a former participant of the Testing––gives her an ominous warning, hinting that there is a very dark side to the test she is about to take. Above all, he makes one thing clear: she can't trust anyone.When the Testing begins, Cia discovers that her father was right. It's every man for himself, and it soon becomes clear that the other candidates are willing to stab each other in the back in order to pass. … And failing has more dire consequences than Cia anticipated. Over all, this book was very "meh" for me. It wasn't terrible, but there wasn't much to distinguish it from other YA dystopian books. It seemed like it was just borrowing elements from other dystopian books and didn't have much to offer in terms of originality. (I mean, just look at it … even the cover is a pretty blatant rip-off of the Hunger Games covers; same with the chapter headings.)I found the first half of the book pretty dull. It mostly consists of a bunch of kids sitting around taking tests (like, you know, pencil and paper tests). It gradually builds up to more threatening tests, in which a person or two dies a horrible death for giving a wrong answer or making a wrong move, etc. But … it's still kind of like "extreme SATs" or something. The pace doesn't pick up until about halfway through the book, in which the final test consists of the characters being dropped off in a random place, and they have to find their way back to the starting point. (And they're allowed to kill each other along the way, of course.) But even with the rise in action, the second half of the book is pretty repetitive and I didn't find it too engaging.Cia is not a very strong protagonist, either, and she's pretty much just a Mary Sue. She's super smart, and she tends to antagonize all the other characters and make them sound like inhuman, unfeeling beings. She has kind of a "everyone is a shallow jerk except for me" attitude. The rest of the characters weren't very interesting or relatable to me, either. They were all pretty bland and didn't have very strong motives or personalities. There's also a romance, but it's not very well-developed or believable. It felt forced to me. Also, the writing is pretty "telling" rather than showing. There's a lot of plot summary, and the author tends to skim over dialogue by writing things like, "First we talked about this thing, then we talked about another thing. Then we talked about the other thing some more." It's like … I don't want to just hear what you talked about, I want to know what the characters actually said. Skipping over the dialogue like that is boring, and it also detracts from the character development. I think there are some interesting themes in the book, and some interesting social/political messages about what it takes to be a leader––whether leaders should be ruthless or compassionate, and so on. And the story did have its exciting bits.But, ultimately, it just didn't completely hold my attention and it wasn't original enough to be very memorable for me, and it wasn't enough for me to want to continue the series.