“Test” by William Sleator (Amulet, 2008)


William Sleator has been thrilling and terrifying readers for decades now with the fantastic, unbelievable, and at times scarily close to a possible doomed future, as he does with his latest book, Test.  In this world, the United States is a little different to what you or I know.  There are now an untold number of cars on the roads and highways of the country, clogging the asphalt and air with exhaust fumes; it takes many hours to get just a few miles, as traffic inches along at a pathetic pace.  If you need to be at work or school by 9AM, you need to leave in the early hours of the morning.  And how does one avoid this?  Well, you have to be super rich so you can afford your own helicopter, your own helipad on top of your mansion, and a helipad where you go to school or work; then you can get to class in no time, just like one of the characters in Test.

And how does one become super rich?  Well, it really depends on how you do on the XCAS test.  This is the national test that every high school student must take to graduate and to determine if they have any hope of a future and a job and a decent career.  If they fail, there is little hope for them.  And what do teachers teach them?  Not English vocabulary and grammar, not mathematics and science, or languages, but practice and training for passing the XCAS test; because if the students don’t past the tests, then the school gets low ratings, and they get less government funding for the school.  It’s a very vicious cycle in this elitist America.

Ann is sick of the system, but as a member of a family that struggles to get by, she doesn’t really have much choice.  But she is a very smart teenager, and as she learns some facts and details about certain people, she puts the pieces together and begins to have some hope that she might just be able to do something about the state of things, but she’s going to need some help.

Sleator does it again, with Test, creating a unique world with strong and interesting characters and a compelling story that will have readers – be they young adults or adults – hooked to the very end.  So the next time you prepare for a midterm and you really don’t feel like studying for it, take a read of Test, and find out how much worse things could be.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on September 16 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.