Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Author Interview: Joelle Charbonneau previews The Testing

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Joelle Charbonneau is here to preview THE TESTING, out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's in Spring 2013.

Here's the summary: 
Welcome to the United Commonwealth – a group of 18 colonies in North America that survived the brutal effects of biochemical war and natural disasters. Every year the Commonwealth selects the best and the brightest graduates from each colony to be candidates for attendance at the University where they will use their talents to help restore the earth and help the Commonwealth thrive. As the youngest graduate in the smallest colony, mechanically inclined Cia desperately wishes to be chosen for The Testing, but she knows her chances are slim.  
And yet – four are chosen and Cia is one of them. But her elation is short lived for her father believes the testing isn’t as it appears. Students who don’t pass are never heard from again and those that do move on can no longer remember what happened during those fateful days. Now Cia must decide who to trust and hope that her wits are enough not only to get a passing grade, but to keep both her and her friends alive.

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?

While I am a fan of both light and dark stories, I think dark stories appeal to readers in for the same reason horror films draw huge box office crowds. We like to be scared. We also like the feeling of triumphing over our fears. Dark stories allow us to walk in the shoes of the main characters as they are pushed into extreme situations. While we take that journey with them, we get to explore themes and story questions that are relevant to our own lives. I think it is the combination of watching characters triumph in adverse situations and the ability of the reader to confront their own fears while walking in the characters’ shoes that make dark stories impossible to resist.

If THE TESTING had a theme song, what would it be and why?
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police. The instrumental part of the music is a lovely, power ballad. Which seems innocent enough. Until you listen to the lyrics. Those are downright creepy. When THE TESTING opens, Cia Vale thinks the world is a lot like the instrumental side of that song. Then she starts paying attention to the lyrics and begins to realize that everything is not what she thought it was.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
Huh…this question made me really think for a while. If Cia had to choose a best friend from another novel, I think she’d pick Benny from CIRCLE OF FRIENDS by Maeve Binchy. Cia values loyalty above all else. While Benny isn’t the most self-assured or assertive character around, she is incredibly loyal to her friends and family. She also has an understated sense of humor and a quiet intelligence that Cia would greatly admire. Now we just have to arrange for the two of them to be in the same country and the same year for this friendship to get off the ground.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Because it belongs on everyone’s Dystopian lit recommendations.

BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami: A Japanese precursor of THE HUNGER GAMES, this book really delves into how fear makes it difficult to trust—even when you have known the people surrounding you for your entire life.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess: This book was assigned to me as a senior in high school, and I’ve read it at least a half dozen times since then. The language the author utilizes is unique. The story is disturbing. You might not enjoy the story, but I promise you’ll come away having learned something from reading this book.

RESTORING HARMONY by Joelle Anthony: The fact the author is named Joelle is a compelling reason all in its own, but I loved this book because it is so different from most of the Dystopian fiction out there. It is a sweet story filled with adventure and music.

THE RUNNING MAN by Stephen King: While the movie is entertaining, it is not even close to being similar to the story that inspired it. I read this story years ago along with all the other books King published as Richard Bachman. It resonated with me then, but has pulled even stronger feelings with me in the past couple of rereads perhaps because of the rise in popularity of reality shows.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
I want to see the Cubs win the World Series. (Honest! I do!)

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Dystopian young adult is a hot genre right now. There are a lot of really great books out there for readers. But I do think THE TESTING is unique because almost every reader can relate to the fear that comes with taking a standardized test—especially the SAT and the ACT. The pressure that comes with taking those tests and with the entire college application process has gotten more extreme with every generation of students. THE TESTING delves into what it takes to deal with the pressure of needing to pass an exam as well as question whether the people who operate best under that kind of intense, competitive pressure are really the people we want to be leading our country.

Thanks Joelle!

Visit Joelle's website:
Become a fan on Facebook:
Follow Joelle on Twitter: @jcharbonneau
Add THE TESTING to Goodreads
Joelle also blogs every Sunday at Do Some Damage ( and on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at The Stiletto Gang (


bermudaonion said...

My mom's right there with her about the Cubbies!

Katie DeKoster said...

I think The Testing sounds awesome, and I love that Joelle is a Maeve Binchey fan :) Life-determining "tests" seem to be a theme in the books I've been reading lately - they were present in different ways in both Divergent and Delirium.

Erica said...

The only dystopian on your list I've read is The Hunger Games. I need to get on the rest of those.

I am SO excited for The Testing! Cannot wait to read it next year :)

Elie said...

yes, I think we can all relate to some testing issues. Sounds great!

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

As a high school senior, I can definitely relate. And A Clockwork Orange has been up in my list of must reads, so I'm glad Joelle recommends it! Thanks for the great interview; The Testing sounds awesome! :D

Evie said...

Now I'm curious about the students who don’t pass the testing.

roro said...

Now I'm curious about the students who don’t pass the testing.'' same here