Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: 2012
Genre: Young Adult Horror

Synopsis: 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.

My Rating: Red-StarRed-StarRed-StarRed-Star

So you know when you watch survival or zombie movies and we get characters that survive because they want to live, they’re determined not to die. They will do whatever it is they have to do in order to live through the apocalypse, you know them right? Yeah this story is about those other people. In this story, Summers introduces us to 6 high school students and I would say that 4 of them neither wanted to live or had the mental strength to cope with such adverse situations as a zombie apocalypse. Our story starts out with our narrator, Sloane. On this morning she has decided to end her life, she has a horrible abusive father and her sister has run away leaving her trapped with this bastard. She’s been abused all of her life and she is emotionally and mentally dead for all intents and purposes. On this morning that she plans her death a zombie apocalypse happens.

So this is a sad situation, you have 6 kids that have basically managed to survive and find shelter inside of their high school as the world falls apart around them. Yet on top of this horrific situation you’re being told the story though the eyes of someone who wishes she was dead, who feels dead, who feels like she’s in a dream. She observes the other 5 people fall apart before her eyes and she likes it because she wants them to be as broken and hopeless as she is. This book is fucking depressing. Like, you really need to be OK with life to read this because this book is one hell of a debbie-downer.

I liked this because it was different but because it was different it took me a while to get into the story or more like to be OK with this narrator. I had qualms with some of the characters, especially the brother and sister duo but in the end it made sense. The two best characters of the book are the 2 boys who are survivalists, Rhys and Cary – they were the ones I was rooting for because I identified with them.  On the other hand protagonist Sloane… I had a pretty bad disconnect with Sloane. I have said this before, I don’t ever connect with characters – but I like to root for them, be in their team but Sloane is so foreign to me that I lacked pity for her situation because she was so hopeless of life. Granted, it’s because I’ve never been through what she went through but still I wanted spark in her, I wanted it so bad and because of that I did not fall in love with this book, like Sloane, I kept it at an emotional distance and never truly felt for her. That caused me to not give this book 5 stars because the writing, man – Courtney Summer can write. This book is poetic, filled with imagery and prose. It’s unexpected in such a story and it’s rather refreshing. She poses moral questions despite your need to not think about them given their situation.I think if there had been character growth especially from the twins I would have liked it much more but I was so overly annoyed at this group of arguing shits that I lost my cool whenever they started a new fight. I was able to overlook it because of the poetic pose.

I’ll say this much for this book, it made me realize that I would be the type to fight to survive. I’d want to live and I would mentally harden myself to be able to cope unlike most of the characters in this book who truly just fall apart. I would recommend it, I can see this author really growing with her writing until her characterization blossoms to catch up to her prose so I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

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