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? (from GoodReads)
I read This is Not a Test in one sitting and it's definitely the type of novel that lends itself to this - it's gripping and hard to put down. I really enjoyed the blending of contemporary YA themes and a zombie apocalypse, and I think This is Not a Test delivers something new to the zombie genre.
This is Not a Test was very similar to Lord of the Flies, in which there is a group of teenagers stranded in a dangerous situation where the issue of leadership and power takes center stage. Unfortunately, the six characters stuck in Cortege High School during the zombie takeover are not great friends, nor do they get along too well. This leads to power struggles, which I think is a great commentary on human behavior in crisis. Sometimes the characters could be super annoying; there was a lot of crying, moping and overall helplessness and hopelessness. However, I honestly believe the majority of teenagers would act this way, so I think Courtney Summers depicted a very accurate reaction.
Our narrator is Sloane and she has had a very tough life. She's dealt with both physical and emotional abuse from her father, her mother is dead and her sister (her only friend and confidante) recently took off. So the zombie apocalypse is perfect for Sloane because she's already suicidal. It was tough to read Sloane's point-of-view because she does want to kill herself and that's an awful mindset to be in. Seeing her change throughout the novel and open up to the other students was really nice. I think she started to see the importance and meaning of life.
Some people on GoodReads complained that the book was boring because the characters are stuck in a high school for the most part. While I agree that the book isn't terribly exciting in the middle, I think it's very realistic. The students are barricaded inside and there's nothing to do, but there's still the claustrophobia of the zombies outside and the drama of living in close quarters with five other traumatized teenagers.
Overall, I really enjoyed This Is Not a Test and thought it was a gripping, harrowing read. If you like zombie books be sure to check this out!
Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library.
2012/St. Martin's Griffin/323 pages.