This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan
Sloane Price is a teenager when the end of the world begins. She escapes the masses of dead bodies, brought back to life and aching to bite anything still living, with five other students barricaded inside the high school. But Sloane’s life ended months ago when her sister left, leaving her to survive their father’s abuse alone. Now she’s struggling to find a reason to live, and although she’s living through the apocalypse with five people who are hopeful for their survival, she must decide if she can find a reason to stick around. With everything in her life gone, Sloane has to figure out if there’s anything left worth holding onto.
I have to admit that I’m not sure zombie stories are really my thing. I have liked some of them (such as The Forrest of Hands and Teeth series), but others I’ve had difficulty with and even given up on (Warm Bodies comes to mind – couldn’t get through it). This Is Not a Test falls somewhere in the middle. While I liked Sloane and felt deeply for her, I was more concerned with the human aspects of this novel than the zombies. Because it was more about the six of them still hanging onto their lives, I overall enjoyed it, but I do think it was my least favorite Courtney Summers novel due to the zombie stuff.
I empathized with Sloane right away, though. She had an incredibly traumatic life before the apocalypse, and basically everyone in her life who was supposed to protect her had either abused her or abandoned her. So she was pretty indifferent to being alive, and at one point she put herself in harm’s way with the intent to get bitten, with the intent to die. I definitely felt that she was the strongest part of the book, for me, as reading her struggle to decide whether to live or die felt very authentic to me, in the midst of a zombie story. What she was going through was not a normal situation, but she reacted to it based on everything she’d already been through in her life.
While I was interested in the dynamics between the group of six teens, for me this book was mostly Sloane’s story, more about her personal struggle than how she related to the rest of the group. Obviously they played a huge part in the story, but to me they were each a minor character in this story about Sloane’s conquering her internal demons, and therefore I didn’t much connect to any of them.
Summers has no fear in this book! She was not afraid to make Bad Things happen to her characters, and I applaud her for that. I also really liked her stark, cold writing style, a style that I’m almost always on board with but also one that really worked well with the subject matter of the book.
I listened to the audio of This Is Not a Test, narrated by Stephanie Cannon, which was just okay for me. Cannon has a hint of an English accent and I found that to be a little strange. I felt she did a good job with the narration, but I was really distracted by her voice.
I don’t have a ton of experience with zombie books, and I do fear sometimes that they aren’t for me. That being said, I did enjoy This Is Not a Test, due to Summers’ excellent writing and the main character, Sloane, who completely won me over. I would recommend this one for fans of zombie books and YA fiction.