Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
Graduation Day begins in high tension, right where Independent Study left off, but within the first few pages author Joelle Charbonneau manages to weave in a review of the previous two books in the series without diminishing the tautness or velocity of this final entry in The Testing trilogy--very helpful for readers like me who have had a wait between volumes to finish the story. Cia has just discovered a shocking truth about the rebellion meant to bring down the Testing--a ruthless elimination process for future leaders of their post-global-disaster society--but when she brings that information to the President of the United Commonwealth hoping to discharge her responsibility, she is instead given a terrible but crucial task, one she’s not sure she has the heart to accept.
At the beginning of the first book (The Testing) Cia is living with her family in The Five Lakes Colony of the United Commonwealth--the area that before the Seven Stages War was the Great Lakes region of the United States--but she’s proud to have been chosen to go to the capital city Tosu (formerly Wichita) for Testing, an “honor” so brutal and deadly that candidates who survive have their memories of it wiped afterwards. In the second book (Independent Study) Cia attends the autocratic university designed to train society leaders, and while there is less overt violence in this part of the story, pervasive threats and power struggles between students mean there is no less tension. The second book is more thought provoking than its predecessor, spending time on the relative merits of big government vs. a libertarian society, and this final book of the trilogy combines the strengths of both previous books. It has the ramped up action of the first book, but it doesn’t leave the deeper issues of the second book behind--making it a great finish.
If you’ve read The Hunger Games you’ll notice some similarities, but I’ve enjoyed Carbonneau’s series more. The premise makes more sense to me--instead of sadistic surrender terms, the horrific trials young people go through are meant to winnow out the weak while selecting future leaders, and though Cia wants to eliminate the Testing she’s sometimes torn because in spite or maybe because of its brutality the Testing has been largely successful at its mission. War and environmental catastrophes wiped out most of humanity and almost destroyed the planet, but leaders selected through the kill-or-be-killed Testing process have proven they can make the tough decisions needed for survival.
I love vividly written, the post-catastrophe Midwest setting of The Testing trilogy and the detailed history and science of the world building. Cia is both capable and caring--she’s a tinkerer and good with the stripped down tech of her world so she makes a great main character. In the first book too many of her actions were influenced by a budding romance for my taste, but though that relationship has continued in the second and this third book Cia’s decision making process has (fittingly) matured. I’ve been assuming this is a trilogy, but I would love to read a continuation of the story.