Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Find On: Goodreads | Amazon UK
This Is Not a Test is not your standard zombie book. There is little blood, gore and action. Instead, Courtney Summers takes a different approach as she delivers a story of survival and hopelessness in a very much character-driven book. The plot unravels at a carefully controlled pace as our main character, Sloane Price, takes refuge in a barricaded school with five other students while silently awaiting the moment she can be put out of her misery. It’s not often we are presented with a post-apocalyptic story where the main character isn’t looking for a way to survive in the gritty aftermath but Sloane, unlike the others, has no desire to make it out alive. After having lost everything important to her, she has no desire to live at all.
This was my first book by Courtney Summers and I am determined to make sure it is not my last. Every so often I come across a book that just screams talented author at me, and this is most definitely one of them. The writing is raw and gut-wrenching – in the most simplest yet effective of ways. I hadn’t been expecting such a brilliant writing style but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Courtney Summers makes it near impossible not to feel emotionally attached to both the story and its characters, especially Sloane. It is difficult to say I understand what it must be like to have a death wish, but I certainly felt like I understood. Not once did I question Sloane or feel like telling her not to give up. Her narrative is clear and straight-forward and carries the undertone of a heavy weight, but it felt scarily natural. I felt strangely comfortable reading through the eyes of a suicidal girl.
The other characters are very different to Sloane, and even quite different from each other. No one is perfect in this book. No character is without notable flaws. From Trace’s hot temper to Harrison’s paranoia, the group is a rough batch thrown together with clashing personalities making survival in the school harder than need be. Despite all the negative qualities of each of the characters that make themselves known during the course of the book, I couldn’t help but end up admiring, or at least supporting, each and every one of them. We get to see right through to the core of every character and see them as they are, true and genuine.
There may be zombies in this story, but they are not a part of the actual story – that of Sloane and the others and their battle for survival in a closed environment. At times, being stuck with the characters in the school felt incredibly lonely. I couldn’t help but wonder what the zombies were up to, or even what the rest of the surviving population was up to. Where were all the other people? I wanted to know. I wanted to venture out of the school for a while just to create a better picture of the actual situation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen too often - but when it did, it was perfect. The intensity in the rare scenes of action gave me just enough of a rush to make it through the quieter and more slowly paced parts of the book. Although I missed some of the ususal zombie goodness, I appreciated this different stance and found myself slowly easing into the solid story line.
In essence, this book is about the characters, not their situation. It is more about the characters because of their situation. We get to know them and even grow to become fond of them, while following a brief gritty moment of a survival story. I will suggest fans of conventional zombie stories treat This Is Not a Test with caution. Though having said that, I am a fan of conventional zombie stories and I thoroughly enjoyed this different take. I couldn’t recommend this more.
Rating: 4.5 stars