There are no grades in this dystopian future—only survival.
It’s graduation day for 16-year-old Malencia “Cia” Vale, and she’s hoping to be selected for The Testing in Tosu City, a necessary prerequisite to attend the University. She is, along with three other Five Lakes colony teens. Embarking on the four-part series of challenges, Cia will learn whom to trust, even as she falls in love with Tomas, one of her fellow Five Lakes colonists. Cia must pass multiple-choice exams, hands-on survival tests and team challenges before facing the final test—a wilderness trek back to the University to prove her abilities as a leader. With a gun, compass and water in her bag, Cia will trek from the ruins of Chicago back to Tosu City, depending on her wits and her trust in Tomas. Charbonneau jumps into the packed dystopia field with a mashup of Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011) and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, but she successfully makes her story her own. Cia’s mechanical abilities are an unexpected boon to the overall character development, and it’s refreshing not to have a female protagonist caught up in a love triangle. There’s a nicely developed relationship between Cia and Tomas and genuine suspense surrounding another candidate’s motivations and intentions. Between the ruined world and the mutants, there’s plenty of threats to keep the pages turning.
Though genre elements are in place, this page-turner earns an A for freshness. (Dystopian adventure. 12 & up)