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?Um, wow. Seriously. Wow. I wasn’t a fan of the one other Courtney Summer’s book that I read, but this one is kinda ridiculously well done. I feel like I’m totally going to fail to do this book justice, so just keep that in mind if the book doesn’t sound as awesome as I’m trying to convey.
I’ve only read one other zombie book, “Ashes,” and I enjoyed it, but “This Is Not a Test” totally blew that one out of the water. Unlike “Ashes” (and I assume most other zombie apocalypse books), “This Is Not a Test” isn’t based on physical action. In fact, for the majority of the book, the characters are hiding out inside the high school, relatively safe. But oh man does Courtney Summers have the tension and claustrophobia and paranoia DOWN. And somehow that made the book feel more brutal than a bunch of endless fight scenes would have. I was glued to the page, and when I finished it before bed, I just laid there, eyes wide open, because I was too keyed up to sleep.
Sloane is a complicated and fascinating character. She’s prickly and standoffish, and the psychological repercussions of the terrible things that happened to her before the story begins make her hard to get close to. But somehow, despite all that, Sloane is an intrinsically charismatic main character, and I cared so much not only about her physical safety but about her emotional well-being as well. Her character was such a brilliant exploration of what you do at the end of the world when the world has already been over for you for quite some time.
The writing of the book is pitch perfect. I. Can’t. Even. The tone and the style create this mood that combines with the pacing of the plot to make this book not only beautiful but impossible to put down. And the ending . . . so good. It’s messy and not much is resolved, but somehow it’s exactly how the book needs to end. Last I heard, Summers is planning on this being a standalone, and I really hope it stays that way. Because while there is plenty of material for a sequel, I don’t want anything to ruin the perfection of this ending.
Overall, such a strong book. Don’t go into it expecting lots of zombie fight scenes, because it’s not usually that kind of book. It’s more subtle and powerful than that. This book makes me want to go back and read Courtney Summers’s other books just so I can get another taste of her talent.
Rating: 4.5 / 5