Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not a Test
Goodreads 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 wantto 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?
Goodreads / Barnes and Noble

Genre: Young adult, horror
Pages: 323
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Library

First Line: "Lily, I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared."

Favorite Quote: "This must be what Dorothy felt like, I think. Maybe. If Dorothy was six scared teenagers and Oz was hell."


I've been meaning to pick up a novel by Courtney Summers for a very long time. I've heard almost nothing but good things about her writing and her characters. Honestly, I probably should have read Some Girls Are before I started this own because I own it, but This Is Not A Test sounded better. I've really been in the mood for apocalyptic dire stuff lately, and the title caught my attention, along with the cover. The model is pictured in such a creepy and yet intriguing way, and the blood splatters really complete the eerie vibe. I was hoping that this would live up to my expectations - which were pretty high - and I'm happy to say that for the most part, it did.

The best things about this book is how quickly I connected with the characters. I was a little confused at first, because it starts off with Sloane being in her house and then suddenly it's seven days later and she's barricaded herself in her local high school with some other people with a bunch of zombies (or, as they are called here, "the infected") wandering out outside, waiting to attack and eat anyone they see. But once I adjusted to what was going on, everything came together really well. Though Sloane is a very distant and sometimes an emotionally numb narrator, it is still easy to feel her pain and wish the best for her. At first I was annoyed at how much she just wanted to die when obviously everyone else was doing the best they could to stay alive under the awful circumstances. But when her back-story is revealed, I regretted judging her so harshly.

No one in the little group gets along very well. Since Sloane was so distant, she didn't really talk to anyone for maybe the first half of the book. A romance does emerge, however, between her and Rhys (is that pronounced the way its spelled?). I'm still not exactly sure how I feel about them together. It seemed like every time they spoke it only ended with Sloan saying something mean or cold, and Rhys stomping out of the room, only to repeat the pattern later. I suppose they bonded because of mutual pain over the past, but really at that point I was desperate for Sloan to connect with anyone. All she wanted was to be loved, after being betrayed by her sister and abused by her father.

I was expecting the writing to be good, but I was still pretty amazed by it. Though each person had a distinct personality and were all believable characters, what really stood out to me was their flaws, and how they reacted when they were forced to make difficult choices. The thing that happened with Mr. Baxter was sad, but they were afraid, and who wouldn't have done the same thing? Trace's anger with Cary over his dead parents was a good source of tension throughout, and their frustration with Harrison's sensitiveness was plain to see. They were all just so easy to love or hate; I find it a little hard to explain. I loved the plot twists and the rawness of what was happening - nothing felt sugar-coated. My heart was pounding through a few of the chapters, and I found it extremely difficult to put down. It didn't make me cry, but I was still very emotionally invested.

The only issue I had with it is similar to how i felt about Eleanor & Park - I adored the overall story, but at the same time I felt like the ending was way too abrupt. We have no idea what happens to the characters at the end. They could have made it to their destination, or they could have died five minutes after the story ended; we just don't know. We don't even know for certain if Tina T's radio voice was correct about the shelters. There could have been a little epilogue, at least. I'm finding that more and more authors are writing these very open endings lately, and I'm not very happy about the trend. I'm fine with wondering, I just don't want to be kept in the dark about ninety percent of what happens next. I'm pretty sure that this is Summers' only novel with a paranormal twist, but with the way she writes characters I could easily see her doing awesome contemporary. I'm very eager to pick up some of her other stuff, despite my one complaint.

4.5 stars

Books in this series:

Other Opinions: 

Mindful Musings
Reading Is In My Blood
Booking In Heels


  1. I loved this book and I couldn't have been more surprised, zombies aren't my normal thing. It was the first Courtney Summers book I read, too but since this one I've read Cracked Up to Be, which I also really liked.

    Great review!

    1. They're not my go-to creature either, lol. I'm glad you also liked it!

  2. I liked the ending for this one a lot-I liked that it was kind of vague so we get to draw our own conclusions. This has been my favorite Summers so far!

  3. I agree that the ending was really abrupt. I'm still not sure if I understood what was happening with that one, really. I do love Courtney Summers a lot, though (Fall for Anything is my favorite). Her prose and characters are so memorable and strong. I hope you'll have great experiences with Summers in the future!