I received this book for free from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on June 19th, 2012
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, YA
Source: St. Martin's Press
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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?
When someone sees a zombie book there are two reactions: 1) Oh zombies, scary and gory! AwesomeSAUCE! or 2) Ewww zombies! Icky! – pass. So this is a warning: As far as zombie books go, This Is Not A Test has to be one of the tamest. It’s not gory, nor is it an adrenaline filled story. Yes there are zombies and it can get intense at times, but funnily enough, it is not about the zombies. It’s about a girl who doesn’t want to live in this world anymore. She can’t keep going with a dad that beats her, and a sister that left her. This book is about finding the will to live in all this melancholy. Surviving in a school with others who only want to make it through this zombocalypse, when all Sloane wants to do is leave. To let the zombies take her away from this unforgiving world.
Even though the zombies almost never make an appearance. It doesn’t mean it’s not frightening. Courtney weaves them in the always present background; leaving them to our imagination makes them scary in a way no one else can. We don’t know what’s happening on the outside and with a constant fear of breach, the tension in the story is unmistakable. The unknown is a terrifying illusion. This is the angle Courtney takes to make this book absolutely unnerving.
With half a dozen teenagers in a life or death situation, there is no absence of angst. However, it’s not aggravating, it’s realism. It was written with such authenticity that you never feel annoyance, only distress. These are not just surface characters, either. This is a gang of teenagers who are experiencing the end of the world; who have lost everyone they ever knew and loved; who just want to make it through to the next day without killing each other – or dying at the hands of the zombies. We get to know these characters to the core, exposed. We see them at their most vulnerable. It’s all so raw that you get to care deeply for these people. Even when you’re not reading, you’re constantly worrying about them; it’s mentally exhausting, but truly captivating. These personalities who often clash have to learn to work together if they want to come out of this alive. It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, and there’s a constant sense of doom in the air. One positive vibe throughout, though, is the hope. These kids make the best of what they have, and you always feel like somehow, things will work out.
This story is one that sticks with you, with an ending that leaves you in a bittersweet mess where you’re not sure if you should cry, or simply exhale and let it go. This was my first novel by Courtney Summers, but if this is an example of her writing, I can say she has exceptional talent that I will seek out again with immense anticipation.
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