Release Date: June 19th 2012
Source: Raincoast Books
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Also by this Author: Cracked Up To Be; Some Girls Are
Buy It: Book Depository
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.Courtney Summers writes a zombie novel. It seems so strange at first: this author who has published three edgy contemporary novels, two of which I have read (and loved)- Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are- suddenly decides to add the undead to her story? But in reality, This Is Not A Test is actually more similar to her previous books than I ever would have expected. Yes, there are zombies, but there is also a sorta unlikable main character with a secret, a romance between two people that don't really get along, and the kind of story that leaves you breathless with quickly turning pages. In fact, all the zombies really do is force six people together in a confined space for an extended period of time, six people who would never be together under any other circumstances, and then the reader gets to see what happens.
I don't really read about zombies, but I do watch a lot of horror films, and when it came to that aspect of This Is Not A Test I wanted a little more from the story. If there were going to be zombies, I wanted their existence to seem less random. At the same time, maybe that is what makes them so scary, the fact that they appear out of nowhere, all of a sudden. I guess I was never completely convinced that there had to be zombies, and that the same story couldn't have been told during a war for example, with bombs going off outside. There were a few key moments where the zombies were crucial, but the fact that most of the book relies on the terror they trigger, not them specifically, makes This Is Not A Test read a lot more like a contemporary novel than a paranormal.
Like Summers' main characters tend to be, Sloane was difficult but conflicted. When the novel begins, she's planning to kill herself, and then the zombies attack. What makes her existence even more complicated than Parker from Cracked Up To Be and Regina from Some Girls Are is the fact that she manages to live despite wanting to die, while so many others have died while desperately wanting to live. In a way, it's really frustrating. But at the same time, it makes Sloane's experiences incredibly interesting and unique to read about, especially watching her develop and grow throughout the novel, something Summers excels at like usual.
Even though Sloane is the main character of This Is Not A Test, her five companions each get their own little story too, and I found them each interesting to read about in their own way even if they didn't have the complexity to them that Sloane did. I did feel like the story ended a bit too soon, I mean, it's not that it ended abruptly exactly, it was just that I wanted a little bit more from it I guess. It has all this intensity and heart-pounding action, so it goes by really fast, and in a way it felt like it was over before it was really over. The beginning is just so amazing, that opening chapter blew me away, and the ending was more subtle. That said, I appreciate the restraint that it must have taken to end the story there, and it is also beautiful and twisted in its own way.
This Is Not A Test is incredibly easy to read, exciting and horrifying at the same time, thanks to Summers' wonderfully sharp writing–– it manages to have all the dark honesty of her contemporary books, there just happens to be zombies involved.