This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (June 19, 2012, St. Martin’s Press)
Review by Kenzie Helene
I originally requested This is Not a Test from NetGalley because many people on Twitter were gushing about the brilliance of it. I trust Twitter when it comes to my reading list since I follow a lot of reliable people, whose opinions on books come from their love and not just paid promotions. This is Not a Test is just another example why people should listen to authors and librarians when they suggest books. I’m doubtful that I’d have come across this book on my own, but I’m so thankful that I’ve read it now.Summary
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?*
I wasn’t immediately impressed with Sloane’s narrative during the beginning of the book. It seemed like a lot of action and little thought on the part of the main character, which was strange since it was written in a first person point of view. Still, all the action is necessary to get to the brutal plot, which truly emphasizes the adaptation of a human psyche under intense stress. I truthfully don’t know if the narrative style changed somewhere in the middle or if I became invested enough in Sloane’s welfare to the point that it wasn’t noticeable. Either way, by time the first fifty pages were over, I couldn’t put it down.
There have been a lot of zombie novels that I’ve read recently that fall very short of my mark, deriving more from expected stereotypes than originality. It is as if the authors consider the concept of cannibal corpses to be enough of a hook that they can abandon all other ideas of plot. This is Not a Test does not depend on the audience’s previous knowledge of zombies at all. In fact, I don’t believe that Courtney Summers, the author, writes the word zombie once in the book. Instead, she relies on the description of the walking dead to make their own impact, and they certainly do.
The plot was the true star of the story. All of the characters’ back stories are slowly revealed as they suffer through more and more harmful situations until their shared experiences change them in ways they hadn’t expected, forming unexpected bonds and breaking others apart. Sloane’s mindset adapts to her exceptional and awful circumstances; the change is so subtle and slow that it mimics real life in a way that I had not seen before in literature.
The final paragraph is my absolute favorite part of the book. The imagery embedded itself in my mind because it ends on such an abrupt, but perfect, note. No definite conclusion is offered, leaving the ending open to interpretation, yet immensely satisfying nonetheless.
So, listen to book recommendations from Twitter, guys. You never know when it might pay off.
*Taken from Barnes and Noble’s website.