The TestingKeep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few, who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate, eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies: Trust no one.

Surely, though, she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance. Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of each grueling (and deadly) day of The Testing. To survive, Cia must chooose: love without truth or life without trust.

– – – – Except (Chapter 4) – – – –

My heart skips a beat and I look away from his intense gaze back at the skimmer–the cabin—where the cameras are waiting. I have known Tomas my entire life. We’re worked on school projects together, played games, and even danced in each other’s arms for one memorable hour at last year’s graduation party. We haven’t talked as much this year. My fault. More than once Tomas has asked me to take a walk or work with him on some assignment, but I’ve always found a reason to say no. My brothers’ teasing after that party, the other girl’s angry looks, my uncertainty over what those dances meant made me take a step back. Now I have to choose whether to step back again or take a chance and reach out to him. Technically Tomas is my competition, which should make me shut him out.

Soon the others will emerge from the building. Cameras will once again be watching and capturing our every move, possibly our every word. I know that here in the shade of the trees, where I am almost positive the cameras have not followed, is the last opportunity to share my concerns without being heard. My father said to trust no one. But looking back into Tomas’s serious gray eyes, I decide to ignore that advice this one time. If it is a mistake, it is my mistake. The consequences will be mine to live with.

“There is a camera hidden in the skimmer. I spotted two more in the cabin.”

“Are you sure?”

I nod.

A lock of hair falls over his forehead as he looks toward the skimmer. “I don’t understand. Why would someone be watching us now?”

“Because,” I say. “The Testing has already begun.”

– – – – End of Except – – – –

Check out the trailer

“The rising tension, skillfully executed scenarios, and rich characterizations all contribute to an exciting story bound to capture readers’ imaginations. . . . Charbonneau works action, romance, intrigue, and a plausible dystopian premise into a near-flawless narrative.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Independent StudySeries: The Testing
Release: June 2013
Independent Study (Jan 2014) and Graduation Day (Jun 2014)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Learn more at:

Joelle is giving away one (1) copy of THE TESTING. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends June 24; US entries only.

Meet the author
Ever since I can remember I loved telling stories. As I grew up, I started performing those stories on the stage. Creating vivid characters and singing wonderfully complex songs were my passion. I graduated from Millikin University with a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance and then continued onto DePaul University for my Masters Degree in Opera Performance. From there I went onto perform across the Chicagoland area in a variety of Operas, Operettas and Musicals. I also started teaching acting classes and private voice lessons to pass my passion along to the next generation.

Not exactly the path you’d expect a writer to take.

I’d never dreamed of writing a novel. But I loved to read. Then one day I had an idea and I started to write. I found my passion for creating characters lived on the page as well as the stage. It is my hope that the characters I’ve created resonate with you and make you smile.

I still teach voice lessons and sing for the occasional professional event. But the rest of my time is spent with my husband and son while dreaming up new and interesting stories. I hope that someday I hear yours.

Visit Joelle at

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