Book Review: This is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

26 Jul

Book cover for This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This is Not A Test

Author: Courtney Summers

Genre: Horror YA, Contemporary YA, Zombies

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release date: June 19, 2012

Source: NetGalley

Amazon | 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 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?

So. ZOMBIES. I’m not usually in the zombie fan club, friends. I’m not sure I could tell you why aside from the fact that the one thing that bothers me the most is gore. I can handle suspense, I can handle being scared, I can handle being mentally screwed with. But something starts gushing blood and flinging brains all over the place? Nuh uh. No thank you. I always think of zombies as gory, but Courtney Summers’ THIS IS NOT A TEST basically showed me why that’s narrow thinking, and proved to me that I haven’t been giving zombie books enough credit for being AWESOME. Still not my super-favorite thing, but that’s certainly not the fault of THIS IS NOT A TEST.

This was a good book for me to read as my first zombie-pocalypse book because yeah, there were zombies who feasted on human flesh in it. (Yuck.) But it was really about more than that, I thought. At the same time, though, there’s nothing feel-good about zombies, guys, and even though I really, REALLY enjoyed THIS IS NOT A TEST, I’m not sure how many more zombie books I can handle. I CAN tell you that I’m so glad that I read this one. It was intense, sad, bleak, and pretty much unputdownable.

Obviously, the bleak, intense parts have to do with the constant fear and suspense that Sloane and the other kids are living with while they’re trapped in their high school waiting for help and saving that increasingly looks unlikely. As much as Courtney Summers has made THIS IS NOT A TEST about the people and the way they interact with each other and turn on each other, she never lets us forget the EFFING ZOMBIES trying to bust down the doors and get their feast on. Reading it made me jumpy and got me all wound up and panicky. Just from the hopelessness of listening to the emergency warning playing over and over again, and the random reminders of zombies pounding on the doors. It was suspenseful and fantastic.

But THIS IS NOT A TEST is sad, too. Of course, people die, and it’s pretty terrible. Sloane, the main character, is a sad young girl too, who was contemplating suicide before the zombie apocalypse after her older sister left her alone with their abusive father. Her contemplation becomes a desire pretty quickly, and Sloane spends a good deal of time trying to find ways to get herself killed without risking the lives of anyone else. It’s intense and a pretty legit downer. It wasn’t until after I was finished with THIS IS NOT  A TEST that I realized Courtney Summers wrote a book ostensibly about the undead to tell the story of a girl who wishes she WAS dead and gradually comes to realize that maybe she wants the opposite. I KNOW. A zombie book about LIFE. Go figure.

Maybe that seems like a stretch to you, but that’s what I got from it in a really big picture kind of way. But truly, all of the characters, not just Sloane, are trying to save themselves, or find their way to safety without getting bitten, so seeing things through that lens was basically my way of pointing out the silver lining to myself. And the thing with all the characters in THIS IS NOT A TEST is, even when they do devastating, unlikable things and you hate them for the act itself, if you take a step back and realize that these kids are barely surviving THE EFFING ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE and have lost loved ones and are living in fear and were a little effed up BEFORE the zombies came, well, their actions have context. They’re just trying to survive, y’all.

I will say that the end seemed super fast to me. Sometimes in a gripping, “Holy shit I can’t believe this is happening!” kind of way, which is great. But sometimes it felt like, “Holy shit did that just happen in, like, two seconds?” kind of way, which wasn’t as great.  There are a few overarching pieces of the story that culminate in the last two chapters with a speed that makes their resolution seem rushed, and I wished they had some more meat on them. There was certainly lots of adrenaline, though.

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers was really the perfect book for me to read as an introduction to zombies, guys, because I found it to be more about the drama and the suspense than the actual zombies attacking all the time. I mean, I’m not going to be devouring all the zombie books–they’re still just a touch too dark to be something I look to read all the time–but I can appreciate the life and death jeopardy, and I can CERTAINLY appreciate Courtney Summers‘ super writing. This won’t be the last book of hers I read, nor will it be the only zombie book I read. That last bit is something I never thought I’d say, so I hope you all take it for the big recommendation that it is. THIS IS NOT A TEST is pretty amazing.


14 Responses to “Book Review: This is Not A Test by Courtney Summers”

  1. Brittany July 26, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    You know what, I’m not a zombie person either. And I just realized that I haven’t even read a zombie book because I never gave them a chance! I’ve been seeing great reviews for this one so I think I should check it out!!

  2. Randi M July 26, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    I’m glad you liked this!! I read it last weekend (totally agree – UNPUTDOWNABLE), and looooved it. I’m not a fan or “anti-fan”(?) of zombie books; I liked the ones I’ve read, but haven’t read all that many. But this book. THIS BOOK. What can I say, your review does it justice! Great review!

  3. Candice July 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Girl, zombie books are where it’s at! To me there is nothing scarier than a zombie, so I love all the fear zombie books (or at least scary ones) incite in me. I think most of the books I’ve read that have zombies don’t even feature them that much – more like “eep! Zombies! Run!” and then chapters of no zombies… then “eep! Zombies! Run!” You get the picture. I think what makes me like zombie books so much is the suspense of them. You know they’re coming. You know they’ll get you. It’s just a matter of when, not if. Glad you enjoyed this one; I’ve really been wanting to read it!

  4. Kristilyn (@ReadingInWinter) July 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I’m just getting into zombies. The first books I read were the companion books to Rhiannon Frater’s ‘As the World Dies’ trilogy — which I want to read so bad! I’ve read only one or two after those, but THIS ONE! I’m sooooo looking forward to reading it! I just got a copy this week and can’t wait to find the time to dig in.

    Great review!

  5. Alexa Loves Books (@alexalovesbooks) July 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I seem to be getting the vibe that this book is equal parts a contemporary + a zombie book. I’m curious about it; hopefully, I get to read it soon!

  6. April C (@booksandwine) July 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Oh my gosh yes READ MORE COURTNEY SUMMERS. I feel like you would really like her contemporary stuff. Zombies are not my favorite either, I get too scared. But, honestly if it’s an author I love doing zombies then I am more than happy to read the book, especially if that author is Courtney Summers. Now you need to read SOME GIRLS ARE cuz that book is LEGIT yo. LEGITTTTTTT.

  7. Heidi July 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    I love this review so much, Amy! I’m so glad that you gave this one a go even though you’re SO not a zombie person. I gave it a go even though I’m SO not a issues person, and I think we both had pretty much the same reaction. Freaking awesome. I loved the ending, though I can see why you and so many others seem a bit disappointed by it.

  8. Charlotte @ LitAddictedBrit July 29, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    I am not a “zombie person” for exactly the same reasons as you – what is with the eating-people-related gore?! Bleugh! This book sounds like something I could get on board with, though! Awesome 🙂

  9. Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) July 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Oh so I LOVE the zombies forever and ever. I read this one and was one of the ones who thought it was like zombie + contemporary, like Alexa mentions. But it was SO GOOD. Annnd my first Courtney Summers. So I immediately grabbed another Courtney Summers that Tara @Hobbitsies had let me borrow (Fall For Anything) and FLEW THRU THAT SUCKER in like two hours or less. Same writing style. Beautiful. What I learned? I still love zombies. Always will. But I also now love Courtney Summers enough to seek her stuff out even though it is issues-heavy, which is kind of scary to me.

    This is, as usual, not entirely related to your blog post. It’s merely what I’m thinking in almost an Asheley-stream-of-consciousness style. It’s sometimes awesome when I do that and sometimes kind of frightening. Take that as you will.

    Basically, great great review. I’m proud of you for sticking with the zombs. I LURVE them. Gore and all.

  10. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting August 1, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    Zombies are hit and miss for me, but I’ve heard wonderful things about this one. Thanks for this review!


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