Cia's country needs new leaders and as a recent graduate she hopes to be one of them. To do so she has to be chosen for and then pass The Testing so she can attend university in the capital city of Tosu, but no one from her home has been selected for many years, including her very talented older brother. Cia and her family live in The Five Lakes Colony of the United Commonwealth--the area that used to be known as the Great Lakes region but is now slowly recovering from the world wide environmental disaster caused by the Seven Stages War. When Cia is chosen she thinks her father will be happy, after all he went through The Testing himself, but instead he talks of danger and warns her to trust no one.
If you've read The Hunger Games you'll notice that The Testing has many similarities, but Charbonneau seems to specialize in taking inspiration from others and writing a story that is at least as good as the original. Her skating rink series is a case in point--its characters and witty banter read like they have been influenced by Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, but the stories are fresh and better than the more recent, wearing thin offerings in the Plum series. As good as The Huger Games is, I enjoyed The Testing more. The premise makes more sense to me--instead of it being part of some purely sadistic surrender terms, the trials the young people go through in The Testing are to be selected for college and leadership positions. They are over the top trials, but there is some reasoning behind them, misguided as it is. And I love vividly written, the post-catastrophe Midwest setting. Cia is both capable and caring and makes a good main character, but though it's a five star book for me I might have liked the story even more if a budding romance hadn't dictated many of her actions.