This review and others are posted at Read, Rinse, Repeat.
The title is certainly descriptive. A big chunk of the book is all about test-taking. If this sounds compelling to you, then the first third of the book will be right up your alley. If not, you will likely find that it dragged, as I did. I could easily see some people electing to not finish this book, but I pushed on. Fortunately, the action picked up, but there were numerous other problems with the book that make it difficult to recommend.
We're told that much of the planet was destroyed in a global war, but I had to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic story, because it just didn't feel that way. Meager details of the war were relayed in the simplest way possible - via a couple of questions on the test that Cia must pass in order to be selected as a future leader. In fact, we are not given much more information on what brought the world to this point beyond the sentence in the synopsis above. A few American cities were bombed, we retaliated, and...the end. We're told the origin of the original bombs was unknown, which seems incredibly unrealistic. This is a huge omission in a book that touts itself as post-apocalyptic. If we don't understand what happened, how can we accept the dystopian society that formed as a result?
This brings us to the Testing itself. Maybe the future books in the series will pull a swticheroo and reveal an ulterior motive for the Testing, but while reading this one, I kept thinking: Is this extreme testing really the best way to suss out leaders? Isn't real world experience a better measure of success? If the people selected for Testing are so phenomenal, and the Commonwealth is so in need of leadership, what is the sense of putting these people through this Testing that may kill them? It all felt very contrived.
I have not yet mentioned the worst part of the story: the romance between Cia and Tomas. It was as believable as it was necessary to the story, which is to say...not very. These two childhood chums start spouting I love you's and making out as bullets and arrows fly past them on the Testing grounds, while Cia's "heart swells with love." Really? It might have been more believable if she and Tomas were in love before the Testing, but it probably would have been better if they were not in love at all.
Note - I received an ARC from the publisher with a request for an honest review.