Graduation Day: The Testing, Book 3



Final book in talky trilogy picks up pace toward the climax.

What parents need to know

Educational value

As in the previous two volumes, Graduation Day presents little in the way of believable world-building. The book does provide an opportunity to discuss how governments work and how their goals do not always match those of their citizens.

Positive messages

Graduation Day emphasizes the importance of fair play and personal values, even in the face of life-or-death struggles. Cia has the opportunity to achieve her goals by killing someone, but she refuses to take another human life in cold blood.

Positive role models

Protagonist Cia Vale is presented as smart, brave, resourceful, and trustworthy. She's not perfect, but she wants to succeed and make a better life for herself. She's offered many chances to succeed at the expense of others, but she usually finds a way to progress while playing fair with her fellow contestants.


Graduation Day contains violent scenes, but they are not especially graphic. Cia does her best not to use lethal force if she can possibly help it. Nevertheless, she or her boyfriend Tomas are forced to stop some pursuers by exposing them to poisonous fumes, and Cia builds an explosive device that ends up badly wounding an innocent victim. The climax of the novel features a gunfight, but Cia refuses to kill a villain in cold blood.


Cia and Tomas hug, kiss, and hold hands, but their physical relationship does not extend past making out.


The language in Graduation Day is tame, with only one or two instances of "pissed" and "damn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Joelle Charbonneau's Graduation Day is a dystopian science-fiction adventure in the mold of The Hunger Games. It resolves the story begun in The Testing  and continued in Independent Study, in which high-achieving students are pitted against one another in an exam that has life-or-death consequences. The violence is less intense in this installment than in the first, but there are shootouts and explosions that have tragic consequences. The language is tame, with only a few instances of "pissed" and "damn." There's little sexual content, with Cia and Thomas expressing their love for each other through gentle hugs and soulful kisses.

What's the story?

GRADUATION DAY picks up where the previous installment, Independent Study, left off, with the United Commonwealth on the brink of civil war and Cia Vale determined to end The Testing once and for all. Cia seems to have the support of President Callindar, but the allegiances of her fellow classmates are less clear. She trusts her boyfriend, Tomas, but nearly everyone else has to be regarded with suspicion. When President Callindar gives her a list of people she must assassinate, Cia is unsure whether she can fulfill the mission.

Is it any good?


After what felt like an unneeded middle volume, Graduation Day regains some of the momentum the series had lost. Cia still doesn't know whom to trust, and her endless ruminations about the loyalties of her fellow candidates grow wearisome, but the pace picks up as the narrative approaches its climax.

Author Joelle Charbonneau choreographs some effective action scenes, and there are a couple of neat reversals before the central conflict is resolved. This series doesn't reach the heights achieved by some other dystopian science-fiction adventures, but it has its moments.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why dystopian science fiction is currently so popular with teen readers. What does the sub-genre offer that more realistic fiction might not?

  • How do you decide to trust someone? What behaviors might he or she exhibit to be considered trustworthy?

  • What makes a good leader? Can you ever be sure how someone will act under intense pressure?

Book details

Author:Joelle Charbonneau
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:June 17, 2014
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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