This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

December 14, 2012 Reviews 1

  • Date published: 1st November 2012
  • Publisher: Griffin Teen (from Pan Macmillan AU)
  • Format: Paperback, 336 pages
  • ISBN 13: 9780312656744
  • Categories: YA – Zombies
  • Goodreads / The Book DepositoryBooktopia / Bookworld
  • Source: provided for review by the publisher

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 want to 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?

A thoughtful and wonderfully realised book, This is Not a Test isn’t actually about the zombie apocalypse in the traditional sense of zombie books. In fact, there are few glimpses of the zombies until Sloane ventures outside, and even then the encounter is confused and adrenaline fuelled – the zombies are largely an unseen presence throughout the novel. Which makes this book perfect for those readers don’t really want read gory details about zombies, how they feed and how they die.

Sloane wakes up on what she plans as her last day on Earth to find that her plans have been ruined by the emergence of zombies. A lifetime of brutal beatings by her father and her sister’s escape from the home has sapped Sloane of her will to live. So when the zombies come, she thinks that she can take advantage of it and find another way to end her life. But fate has other plans for her, and seven days later, she’s holed up at school with five other teenaged survivors. It’s intriguing to read from the point of view of someone who really doesn’t want to be a survivor, she has a unique way to look at everything that happens. It’s heart breaking but also so realistic that it gave me chills.

The relationships between the teenagers locked inside the school, who previously only had cursory relationships with one another, are raw and unflinchingly realistic, and while I loved it, it also made me fairly uncomfortable. I think it’s great that Summers doesn’t hold her characters up to some kind of unrealistic ideals, so they bitch and lie and betray one another in the manner of teenagers. I am used to characters who are a little more morally grounded, so I found it intriguing but unsettling. I understood the propensity of the twins, Trace and Grace, to blame Cary for the death of their parents, and I was worried about then and for Cary as well, but I found myself thinking that they are really just wasting energy hating one another when they should be trying to work together. Similarly, I found Trace’s attack on Sloane to be ridiculous, and I can’t really wrap my head around the extreme grief he must have been feeling. All the emotions, actions and reactions in this book are amazing, riveting.

When this is over, society will need entertainment to get past it. We’ll make movies about it, hundreds of movies, and in every one of them, we’ll be the heroes and the love interests and best friends and winners and we’ll watch these movies until we are so far removed from our own history, we’ll forget how it really felt to be here.

The brilliant thing about the book is that it isn’t all action – there’s a lot of sleeping, walking, sitting around. Conversations are stilted, and more often than not it’s just Trace and Cary yelling at one another because there’s nothing else to do. I think the worst thing happens a few weeks in: the survivors start feeling safe. Day after day of monotony leads to Trace stopping running every day for fitness, no one checks the entry points into the building any more, and it’s the most dangerous (but also natural) thing to occur because they aren’t equipped for a zombie attack anymore. It’s still a fast paced, exciting book, but it honestly examines what survival is like.

This is Not a Test is a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I hope to read more of Courtney Summer’s works in the future. I think it will be enjoyed by those who love character driven plots (rather than action driven) and also recommend it to those who enjoy fiction featuring zombies, with a twist.

One Response to “This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers”

  1. Rebecca

    I’m not a big zombie fan but I’ve heard really great things about this and instead of your typical zombie-eating-brains tale, it’s got more of a contemporary feel to it. I’ve got this one on my shelf and am looking forward to reading it. I really must read a Courtney Summer’s book soon!

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