Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: This is Not a Test

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?

Review: I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. It's best for me to wait a while after reading so my thoughts and feelings settle, but after three days my mind's still a mess when it comes to this book.

Zombie books are fast-paced, action packed, however-many-pages of fun, right? Not in this case. While this book takes place in a zombie apocalypse, there's a startling lack of actual zombies present. It's not page after page of fighting for your life, gory massacres. It's a story about six teenagers trying to stay alive in the apocalypse--one of which that doesn't want to live at all. 

The main character Sloane doesn't want to be alive. Her father was abusive and her sister, the one person she loved most in the word, left her. She got swept up with five of her peers who fight so hard to live when all she wants to do is just die. The zombies are right there, just outside of her reach. Death is so close to her but she still can't get there. Sloane was an amazing character. She was just so broken and hopeless, but her misery was so real and justified that as a reader, I couldn't mock her for being melodramatic. I loved her so much and throughout the entire book I kept cheering for her to find a reason to live. 

Every single one of the teenagers in the school is a well-developed individual. No two people are alike and Courtney Summers created such multidimensional, different people that the conflicts that arose from their differences in thoughts and the stress of living in a constant life or death situation were so realistic and horrible. It's heartbreaking because they have to cooperate with each other to survive but their personalities constantly clash with each other. While the other characters thought they'd make it, the constant sense of doom from the zombies and from Sloane's own mind gave the entire book a note of hopelessness. 

As I've said, the there aren't a lot of actual zombies present in this book. This doesn't make this book any less terrifying. We don't read about the characters taking down horde after horde of zombies with matches and kitchen knives. While we didn't actually see the zombies, their prescience was undeniable. The zombies were just looming over the characters throughout the entire book. Every single scene was filled with so much fear and tension because a breech could happen any second. 

I love Courtney Summers' writing. She has this prose that somehow manages to be beautiful but natural at the same time. So while I'm admiring her pretty paragraphs, I'm not scoffing at the fluffiness of it all. The setting is very contained. After all, they are confined in a school. But even in the school, the characters tend to stick together and stay in a few select rooms rather than wander around.

The ending seemed to sneak up on me. I wasn't sure what happened at first and had to reread it a second time to confirm that it was in fact the end of the book. Even now, I'm not sure if I want to cry or smile or just drop it. This is Not a Test is still fresh in my mind and I've read two other books since then. (And not just in the form of nightmares)

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic read. It's different from your average zombie book, but it's so so so good that even die hard zombie slayer fans should read this. Courtney Summers really seems to be able to understand how people think and how to tackle depression realistically in a non-realistic environment.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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