Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Zombie stories can be about any number of things...I mean sure they are about zombies, but usually the zombies are just a device used to tell some other more human story. Some books are more successful at this than others for sure. When I first read Courtney Summers new book was about zombies I was surprised and pleased. I enjoy zombie stories. A lot. And I also I love Summers' books. She depicts the inner world of her protagonists better than most authors I know, I always feel what they feel. And her books are tightly plotted, can't put em down stories full of intensity so a zombie book seemed perfect.

And I was right! I loved This is Not a Test, a zombie story that is about living. The will to live, the desire to live, the purpose and meaning of living. Not it's not a heavy philosophical book at all, it's just a very grounded story about a teenage girl who is happening to live through the zombie apocalypse, an event that pales in comparison to the kind of pain she is already living with on a daily basis.

Sloane is at home just trying to survive her abusive father when it happens. The world has gone to the zombies. A few days later the action picks up again and she's with a group of other students from her high school and they've managed to make it back to their...high school. (in other news, Sunnydale High was built on the Hellmouth y'all) But the high school is actually a really good place to go, there's tons of food and other resources, such as running water from the water tank and heavy furniture to blockade the doors. Sloane doesn't really know the other students that well...she once spent the night at Grace's house when she was younger, a night she often thinks of as perfect, because Grace had the perfect family she wanted. One of the boys once dated her older sister, Lily, who left Sloane behind six months ago. Sloane dealing with Lily leaving and what that meant to her as a person is a huge story line in the book. Otherwise, she doesn't know them that well and the days it took them to get in the high school led to some regrettable circumstances so tensions are high. Two groups from among the students, with divided loyalties.

So you have the outer, "surviving the zombies" story line going on, and then you also have Sloane's inner story. Sloane isn't actually sure she wants to live anymore, she's still grappling with the truth that her sister left her behind with their abusive father six months prior, and she's all alone. And she envies Grace and her twin brother Trace for their closeness and for anyone who has someone to live for, because Sloane doesn't actually know what she should be living for. She wants to die. And she tries to make that happen at one point in the book which leads to a whole bunch of stuff happening that CHANGES EVERYTHING FOREVER.

This is a book about zombies, and yet it's not. It's exciting and moving and it feels so real life. Anyone who has ever been lonely or felt betrayed by someone they loved or come to see someone they depended on in an entirely different way will relate to Sloane's story. It's about growing up and taking ownership of your own life. And there's all this other cool stuff in it, too, about the way we use people for our own survival. The characters in This is Not a Test take big risks and they get their hands dirty. They do "bad" things to get by and while they have to live with the weight of that, it doesn't make them irredeemable forever.

The book is fast paced, the emotions are real, it's everything I've come to expect from Courtney Summers. I'm just sad I have to wait so long of her next book, All the Rage.

This is Not a Test comes out in June, but you can preorder it now. (affiliate link)

Rating: 4.75/5
Things You Might Want to Know: profanity and sex..kind of.
Source of Book: Review copy via netgalley
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Read also my review of Fall for Anything and Some Girls Are


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