Initial thoughts: 3.5-4.0 stars. Despite my reservations, I did enjoy this book and while there are parallels to The Hunger Games (2nd half of the book), it is a solid start to the series. I'll definitely be reading on. My review:The Testing takes place in a world ravaged by the aftermath of war and a series of natural disasters. Resources are limited: a university education is a highly coveted prize. Each year a group of the most talented students are chosen to compete in The Testing for one of the twenty available spots. The competition is ruthless and many candidates succumb to the pressure. Others are not so lucky: their mistakes carry a higher cost – their lives. Cia Vale is from the Five Lakes Colony. When she and four others from her small town are chosen to compete in The Testing, she is very excited. Her family does not share her enthusiasm. Her father had been through The Testing years ago and he does not have any memories of the selection process. Cia, along with her friends, is taken by skimmer to the capital city of Tosu where they will be tested. At first the tests seem innocuous: general knowledge exams in which Cia and her friends from Five Lakes Colony do well. As the testing progresses, a more sinister side becomes apparent. The competition becomes more brutal. Failure to complete a test correctly can results in pain or dismemberment or even death. Then comes phase two. This is where the candidates are dropped off into the wilderness and told to find a way back to Tosu. This is where the book becomes very “Hunger Games-ish.” Cia and Tomas vow to work together to find their way back. I think that I really enjoyed the second half of the book. The pacing was action packed and you never really knew what obstacle would be thrown in Cia and Tomas’ way. I adored Cia and Tomas The romance between these two was tender and sweet. I loved how they took care of each other. Cia and Tomas are the MacGyvers of this world. Give Cia a box of nuts and bolts and other assorted junk and that girl will fashion a bicycle. Cia was so smart and resourceful. I also liked that she had strong morals and did not resort to the dirty tricks that the other candidates used. As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think why a society would have only twenty spots for a university education. Surely a society ravaged by war and all sorts of environmental disasters would want to keep all of its most promising students and leadership candidates rather than killing them off in some ridiculous testing program. This is the part where I just had to suspend belief and just keep reading. The Testing is a solid start to the series. The next book The Testing: Independent Study is expected to be published January 7, 2014. If you’d like to get a sample of this author’s writing, there is a free prequel available called The Testing Guide. This short story gives an overview of the world and also includes the first 3 chapters of The Testing. Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a review copy of this book. Review posted on Badass Book Reviews.