Saturday, August 4, 2012

This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Genre: Dark Fantasy | Young Adult | Post-Apocalyptic

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?


Listen Closely.
Do not draw attention to yourself.
Once you have found a secure location, stay where you are and help will come soon. 
This is not a test.

Sloane Price is stuck in the various stages of grief after her older sister, Lily, abruptly abandons her with their abusive father. She is in such a numb state-of-mind that she even writes her own suicide letter and fantasies about her sister reading it one day when she is gone. Yet, things do not go as planned when one fateful morning Sloane's life takes an ever darker turn and she finds herself on the run with six other scared teenagers. Sloane, Rhys Moreno (18 years old, CHS senior), Cary Chen (18 years old, CHS senior), Grace and Trace Casper (17 years old, twins, CHS Juniors) and Harrison (14 years old, newly transferred CHS freshman) take refuge in their local Cortege High School auditorium, which becomes their emergency shelter during a deadly zombie take-over of their small town.

  Tires squealing against the pavement.

    People running directionless.


    This must be a dream. I must not be awake. Or I’m awake and someone ruined our tidy, quiet street while we were sleeping. Broken glass. Doors flung wide open. Cars parked, running, with no one inside of them. An alarm shrieks nearby. Smoke billows out the window of a house down the street. Mr. North’s house. A police car is parked haphazardly on his lawn, its lights flashing. A fire. That must be what’s happened except I can’t understand why this would turn everyone to panic.

    Everyone is panicking.

Suffering from shock and denial that the world is crumbling around them, Sloane and her new companions must learn to savor the moments they have since seconds really do count in this new post-apocalyptic society. But, when death is all one sees, hears, and experiences - it becomes difficult to not become callus and desensitized to the new way of life thrust upon them. Thus, the troubles outside the school walls soon become nothing compared to the internal struggles within when harsh murder accusations, deadly weapons, and fatal decisions about life and death come into play.  And, when the emergency barricades finally come down, who will be the last one standing?

Lily, I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared. I opened my eyes and I felt it go. Things got worse after you left. Now I’m leaving too. 

I really had such high hopes for this book since I am a dedicated horror fan and ♥♥♥ zombies, but, sadly, I really could not get past Sloane "readying [herself] to die" and her coldhearted temperament. From the very beginning she "decided to die" and carried such a strong torch about her run-away sister that she did not really develop past being hollow and grief-stricken. She constantly carried such a depressing sense of reality around with her that it became very tricky, for the reader, to think about anything else. For example, Sloane would see a car wrapped around a telephone pole and her first thought would be: "that must have been a good way to go."--which, for me, was just too dismal and lacking any sense of salvation.  I understand the overall focus of this tale was death, but I would have enjoyed more moments of confidence that did not arise from feeling indestructible because of a selfish death wish.

Other than that, the reader is treated to only a limited number of days during the teens struggle for survival and it is almost as if you are dropped right into the middle of the story and have to catch up with what is going on. Maybe the confusion created for the reader at the beginning is deliberate to throw off their comfort-zone and plunge them into the chaotic setting (i.e. the destruction of civilization). But overall, it would have been nice to have a bit more information (perhaps a prequel?) leading up to the current predicament or, at least, another point of view that would have added a little more substance throughout the tale. For personally I believe any additional perspectives within This Is Not A Test would have greatly broken up the dark, heavy tone of Sloane's mind-set.  Yet, if you enjoy a melancholy story and have a passion for the fright factor -- you will appreciate Ms. Summers zombie apocalypse.

Likes: A quickly paced, well written, high adrenaline-pumped zombie read that kept me up reading late into the night. Also, I enjoyed Trace's silly anagram joke about "TINA T."

Dislikes: The overall story contained little to no soul, the plot (i.e. struggle to survival) grew sorta blah after awhile, and I could not warm up to the protagonist because Sloane was such a dark and depressing character with no hope or redemption. Even the playful moments (ex. playing I NEVER with alcohol) was gloomy and upsetting. All in all, this was not your every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining type of read I think I was desiring.
Chapter One/Paragraph One:  Lily, I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared. I opened my eyes and I felt it go.
Favorite { Scene, Character or Setting }: Scene
     "Grace grabs her purse.  It's a designer purse.  I watch her unzip it and riffle through it until she find what she's looking for.  As soon as she does, the purse slip from her grasp and hits the floor.  Clutched tightly in her fingers is a piece of paper.  She unfold it and then pressed it against her face, breathes it in.
     "Look at this," she says. She kisses the note once before she gives it to me. As soon as my fingers curl around it, she says, "Be careful--"

     Daughter dear, I didn't manage to throw something together for your lunch--I'm a flake! Here's some money instead. But something healthy! Remember, Miss President, the student body looks to you to set a good example!
Love you, xo Mom

     The first thing I think is, Mrs. Casper still makes Grace's lunch? And then I cross that thought out until it's not even there anymore because it's the kind of thing Mrs. Casper would do and besides-it's a note from Grace's Mom. This is what has value. This is the new money.
     "Lucky," I say.
     "I know. I knew it was here...but I couldn't--I mean I just couldn't. Until now," she says. "I just woke up and I really wanted it today. I miss her."
Online Preview: Read an Excerpt


  1. Great review. This book is on my wishlist & I seriously want to read it very bad! fright factor? Yes! :)


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