Book Review: This Is Not a Test
By: Courtney Summers
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Page Count: 320
Source: Gifted ARC
Audience: Young Adult - Science Fiction, Zombies
I have been reading a string of really depressing reads lately and this was certainly the icing on my doom cake. Don't get me wrong - Courtney Summers is a brilliant writer and I loved this book - but it isn't one that leaves you feeling happy or even hopeful. In fact, I think my gut reaction to finishing this one was shell-shock mixed with a dash of terror. Rarely do zombie books freak me out, but the realistic writing and setting of this one put me directly into the plot. I felt like I was trapped right alongside Sloane and the others.
In true Courtney Summers fashion our main character has some serious issues. You know walking into one of these books that there is going to be more than just the typical high school drama happening. That is one of the things that makes Summers' writing so appealing. Her characters are damaged before the action even begins. In the case of Sloane, the main character, she is dealing with the effects of a lifetime of physical abuse, abandonment issues, and suicidal thoughts. Pair all of those emotional issues with the Zombie Apocalypse and you have a chilling page turner. I bounced back and forth between feeling sorry for Sloane and being angry with her for her decisions. I suppose being trapped in your high school with five kids you hardly know and the dead beating on the doors isn't really the best time to start sorting through your issues, but I still wanted Sloane to realize how lucky she truly was to even be alive. I suppose being lucky in this type of setting though is relative.
Also, don't shy away from this one because of the zombies. Yes, they are around and there are some violent moments, but overall the gore factor is pretty tame. The book is more about Sloane's emotional turmoil and what is happening among these six teens inside the school. I could write for pages and pages on all the symbolism that I found lurking within the characters - not to mention all the symbolism that zombies themselves conjure. There are so many emotional layers to sort through in this one that at times I honestly forgot about the dead lurking just beyond the barricaded doors. In my opinion, this is the darkest novel we have gotten from Summers thus-far.
I originally gave this book a 4 rating because it left me feeling so bummed out. The lack of resolution also bothered me. After further consideration though, I bumped it up to a 5. It doesn't matter that this book left me feeling hollow because what makes it truly beautiful was the journey I took to get to the end. I was completely wrapped up in Sloane's story and the other characters. I felt their joys and sorrows as deeply as they did. If a writer can make me feel all these things - even when I don't get an ending all tied up in a neat bow - I have to give them a higher rating. This book made me think, it made me question, and it made me want to sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed.
One Last Gripe: I hated that the twins were named Trace and Grace.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Courtney Summers' writing - I love, love, love it
First Sentence: Lilly, I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared.
Favorite Character: Rhys
Least Favorite Character: Trace
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually wantto live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?