July 2, 2014

Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This Is Not A Test

Author: Courtney Summers (Author Website)

Series: Sequel to be Published in 2015

Published: June 2012

Edition Read: Purchased E-Book

Level Recommended: Young Adult 

I read this book when I should have been sleeping. I had to force myself to put it down and get some sleep. It was one of the best zombie apocalypse novels that I've read in quite some time.

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, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to 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 picked up this book based on Kelly Jensen's (of Stacked Books) recommendation on Twitter. Kelly hooked me with the fact that it was on sale in e-book format, and, oh, it's about zombies. (Let's face it, reading dead tree versions of my books now-a-days? Not very feasible when you have a cute little guy who explores the world with his hands and mouth.) It's not hard to get me interested in a zombie novel. I love books about zombies. I've reviewed quite a few of them on this blog. It is hard to impress me with a zombie novel. Summers was able to truly impress me with her take on the end of the world as we know it.

Like most zombie stories This is Not a Test starts at the beginning of the end of the world. No one knows why, but suddenly the dead are getting back up, chasing the living, and eating them. What makes this story different from most other zombie stories is that Sloane doesn't want to survive the end of the world. She'd be very happy to simply stop existing. Sloane has already lost everything she loved or cared for six months before the rest of the world ever ended. She was already quite content with the idea of ending her life when the world as she knows it turns upside down.

Sloane is the victim of physical abuse from her father. She is quite adapt at making herself as small as possible to escape his kind of discipline. Six months before the end of the world her sister Lily ran away from their childhood home without so much as a goodbye to Sloane. Sloane's life has been reeling from the loss of her sister ever since. Sloane is getting ready to end her life and has already written out her goodbye letter to her sister. Then the entire world falls apart.

Six days later Sloane finds herself hiding out in her high school with several other teenagers trying to survive the zombie apocalypse that has occurred. Sloane fights with the idea of continuing to survive and with the desperate want to end her life. Although she has accomplished the very difficult task of surviving the end of the world and finding a relatively safe place to hide Sloane is still unsure as to why she continues to do so.

What I Didn't Like: I wish we had seen and not been told about the six days after the end of the world. I felt like the jump in time could have been elaborated on better, and could have done a lot to expand on Sloane's state of mind. If all she wanted to do was die then what was she thinking the whole time she was following the others to the high school? It was really the only thing that bugged me.

What I Liked:  Throughout the novel Summers delves into the human aspects of survival. Some of the moral questions Summers brings up in the novel aren't answered, and that's ok. I liked being the dark just like Sloane was. Some of the moral survival questions are answered, and they only serve to highlight the real struggle some of these teens are dealing with to keep some sense of humanity. Time and time again the teenagers are faced with the reality that their continued survival may hinge on the death of another.

This is what I loved about This is Not a Test. The simple truth of the matter is that most people who tend to survive a zombie apocalypse aren't good people. Some people survived because they knew how to step over other people to do it. The teenagers, although faced with the same struggle, still seem to hold onto their humanity. They try to remain moral in their actions, and sometimes the reality of the consequences of their decisions becomes a heavy weight. Despite what their intentions may be the consequences lay heavily on them, and that is what sets them apart--most of the time--from the evil in the world.

The humanity of this novel is what makes this story a great one. No one in this world is all good or all evil. They are all simply trying to survive and trying to continue to find reasons to survive. When the whole world falls apart what would you do? This question makes this book one of the best zombie apocalypse novels that I've read in quite some time.

I can't wait for the next installment Please Remain Calm, an e-novella, set to be released in 2015. 

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