Title: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: 6-19-12
Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Contemporary, Zombies
“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.”
This book was totally not what I was expecting it to be…in a very good way. This is Not a Test is about a group of teenagers who barricade themselves inside their used-to-be high school during the zombie apocalypse and attempt to wait it out until help arrives, not knowing when or if that will ever happen.
“I hold his gaze until the chaos outside breaks my concentration. Outside, where everything is falling, landing, and breaking at once. Sometimes you catch something specific like the screams and cries of people trying to hold on to each other before they’re swallowed into other, bigger noises.”
This is the third book I’ve read about zombies, and so far I haven’t been that receptive to the genre (having tried out Rot and Ruin and World War Z). In general, I just haven’t been impressed with zombies’ ability to be an effective “scary thing.” They’re slow, brain-dead, and predictable…where’s the excitement or terror? But This is Not a Test had me sufficiently creeped out. It wasn’t a particularly gory book (thank God, because I can’t do gory), but I was still getting very anxious along with the characters. The atmosphere that Summers created was so palpable. The zombies didn’t scare me…the writing did. And the writing is so incredibly beautiful. The sentences were lyrical and gorgeously flowing somehow, even as all of this zombie craziness was happening in the background. It was like she was trying to show us…there can be beauty among chaos.
The way that Summers has written this book is really interesting, too, because she uses the circumstances she’s based the story around as a tool to create both an effective contemporary and paranormal/post-apocalyptic novel. There are sections where it’s totally a zombie novel, but a large part of it is focused on the humanness that comes out of these people as their stranded together hoping to be rescued. I loved the juxtaposition and the connection between the two genres, and how different it is from anything else I’ve ever read.
My favorite part of this novel, though, is the characters: Sloane, Rhys, Trace, Grace, Cary, and Harrison. The dynamics of the relationships between them are constantly and abruptly shifting as they try to figure out how to coexist together. There are times when you can literally feel the tension and how thick it is as you are reading. These characters burrowed their way inside my head and I can’t stop thinking about them and wondering what has happened to them. I was not expecting to be so moved by these people, but I was. There was a point that I actually cried during this novel…and that never happens.
This book was absolutely incredible, and I’ve just become Courtney Summers’ new biggest fan. I can’t wait to read everything else she’s ever written.