This book reminds of a lot of other books such as The Hunger Games, Under the Never Sky, The Giver,
but it is unique in its own way. In a future earth, ravaged by seven wars, the United Commonwealth mandates that gifted young students participate in the Testing. Only a fraction will pass and go on to attend the University, where they will become the future doctors, scientists, teachers and leaders of the society. As the main character soon finds out, failing can be deadly.
The Main Character, Cia, is all-around smart. First of all, she is intelligent enough to be chosen for the Testing, an honor reserved for only the smartest students in each colony.
She is clever. She discovers the cameras watching them at all times long before anyone else does. She also figures out the bracelets are monitoring devices and figures out how to remove them without alerting the Testing officials.
She is wary and heeds the warning her father gave about the other candidates. She knows to count her roommate's homemade corncakes and checks if she's eaten any. When she doesn't, she knows they are poisoned.
She is intuitive. Cia listens to what the Testing officials say and what they don't say. She knows that asking for help, medical or otherwise, will be regarded as a weakness by the Testing officials. She also figures out that Roman has set a trap for the rest of the team and figures out a way to avoid it.
She is a problem solver and mechanically gifted. She fixes up bicycles for the fourth part of the Testing that enable Tomas and herself to cross the finish line.
Although her father tells her to trust no one, she does tell Tomas about her father's testing experience and how they erased his memories. Tomas, like the vast majority of candidates, has questionable morals. Still, to his credit, he doesn't harm Cia, and helps her to make it through the fourth test. She is the only one he does seem to trust. I don't think this makes her naive. She realizes she has to trust some people or she won't survive. More surprising is Will and his cutthroat nature.
The ending leaves you with a lot of questions. Does Tomas retain his memories? And what happened in those few hours between Will, Zandri and Tomas while Cia was out looking for food and water?
I'm starting book two right now.