“If the only type of zombie books you like are they type that follow some bad-ass, shotgun wielding heroine around as she blows away brain-eater after brain-eater....don't read this book. This is not what This Is Not A Test is about. It is about so so much more.
In all honesty the zombies don't really play a huge role in this story. They are simply a means to an end.
Sloane hopes they will be the means to her end. Sloane wants to die. She has an abusive father, she lacks a mother and her sister has abandoned her. She's prepared to die, she's even prepared for it to be by her own hands. When the infected start attacking people she thinks she's found the perfect opportunity to end herself.
Saved by a rag-tag group of students, Sloane ends up taking refuge with them in the high school. Now not only does she have to battle her own life-long inner demons, she also has to learn to handle the zombies outside as well as the people inside. All while still trying to plan her own demise.
The characters that Summers has created are all quite riveting on their own. None more so than Sloane who is dark and haunting, you can't help but feel her every pain and want. Cary is the survivor by nature who has a connection to Sloane's past that creates a bit of a bond between the two. Rhys is just a sweetheart trying to keep the peace and keep Sloane alive. Brother and sister duo, Trace and Grace, are about as different as different can be. Trace is harsh and judgmental while Grace is caring and loving. Harrison is a young boy who cries at the sight of his own shadow.
No character is completely loveable yet you can't bring yourself to really dislike any of them either.
Summers creates a very real, vivid world even with this supernatural threat waiting outside every door. It is a beautifully dark and depressing tale.
This is the story of a group of young people learning how to overcome all the odds. After tragedy erupts in the world and turmoil erupts in a barricaded high school. It is the story of Sloane learning to love and being able to be loved.
This Is Not A Test is Sloane's journey to wanting to survive a zombie outbreak, not the story of her surviving it. And I really loved it.”
“Sloane lives with her father, who beats her. Her sister Lily left 6 months ago, shattering her world. Without Lily, she felt she had no way to escape. She was ready to give up on life, had written a note to Lily, and was planning to end it all. There is a knock on the door and standing there is a woman covered in blood, the window shatters, a crazed woman is attacking her father. Sloane runs outside and finds utter chaos. People, who are no longer people, but vacant, soulless beings attack one another, feeding on one another. Sloane and five other high school students make it to the school to take refuge. They turn the radio on and hear a woman's voice "This is not a test." That is how this books starts out. Courtney Summers has you hooked from the very first chapter.
There are zombies in this book, but the focus is not on zombies, but on the six teens that are trying to survive inside the school. Six teenagers thrown together in a very stressful and fearful situation. Each with their own unique issues to deal with, while trying to survive the constant threat of killers trying to get to them. Sloane, Rhyse, Cary, Trace, Grace, and Harrison - this is their story. Sloane the main character, appears strong, yet on the inside she just wants her life to end. Rhyse, doesn't want to let that happen, but also has his own inner turmoil going on. The twins, Trace and Grace, lost their parents on the way to the school to the zombies. Then there is Cary, the leader, who they blame for their parents death, yet is more plagued with guilt than anyone is aware of. Lastly, Harrison, the freshman who cries all the time, and is fearful. As they fight for their lives, trying to survive, they each also try deal with their own issues, their own personal demons that they must face. Friendships are strengthened, enemies are made, emotions are raw, love is found. Not everyone will make it out of this. Not everyone survives.
This is Not a Test is one of those books that stays on your mind for days after you finish it. I was completely consumed by the first chapter and did not want to put the book down. This is a zombie book that is in a class all its own. The best one I have read. The characters were real, they had real issues and real problems, and Courtney Summers did an excellent job of enabling you to get into their heads and experience what they were thinking and feeling. The story focused on these six students, yet there was always the element of fear and the threat of danger from those infected, which keeps you on the edge of yours seat. There are some very intense moments. The story is filled with twists and turns, and it is also very emotional, as these characters fight to survive. If you are a zombie fan, then you won't want to miss this one, and if you are not, after you read this book, you just might become one. This is Not a Test is an outstanding book and I would definitely recommend it.
“This is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. That is why it has a B instead of an A. This Is Not a Test has plenty of action, suspense, and mystery. However, it just made me sad. That being said, I can recognize the quality of this novel, and I am going to do my best to review it objectively. You guys know how I feel about sad books. I just don't enjoy reading them. I'm a pansy in that way.
This Is Not a Test is not your typical zombie book. Every single main character in the book (there are six) is well-developed and unique. Instead of having a gore-fest with no character growth, Summers took away a lot of the gore and focused more on the characters, making this a very character driven novel. The plot was pushed forward by each character's will to survive. Our narrator Sloane had no desire to live whatsoever, but the others seemed to want to get out of the zombie apocalypse alive. However, the book mostly focuses on Sloane and how she'd rather let the zombies kill her and turn her into one of them than remain in this world.
Sloane's mother is dead, her sister left her, and her father is abusive. The beginning of this story is depressing and intense because the reader is able to fear Sloane's fear of her father. Then the woman knocks on the door and all hell breaks loose, literally. Sloane ends up being one of six surviving teenagers barricaded in the school's gym, which is kind of ironic since she just wanted to die. Throughout the course of the novel, Sloane is forced to repeatedly see the lengths the other people will go through to live. Being a part of these six teenagers deeply changes Sloane, and she is a completely different character in the end. I love when authors have a lot of character growth in a novel.
The plot is a bit slow at first, and the zombies are never the main focus. They're always there in the background, and every time you almost forget about the, Summers brings them up again. This subtle addition to the story adds an underlying tension to the narrative that could have been forgotten in the hands of less skilled authors. As the story progresses, the tension builds and things begin to get more intense. Sloane learns a lot of information, some of it she would have preferred not to find out. The pacing toward the end is extremely fast, and I was literally white-knuckling the book and hurriedly turning the pages to see what happened next. The ending itself ties things up nicely. It's not exactly a happy ending, but there is some hope. After a zombie apocalypse, I suppose that's all you can really ask for.
Overall, I'd recommend this novel to anyone who loves emotional dystopian/post-apocalyptic books. Summers' writing is fantastic, the plot is captivating, and the characters are realistic and easy to relate to. As long as you're not a pansy like me, you will love this book.
“When the world ended, Sloane Price was living in her own sort of hell. Now, she and five other teens have holed up in the local high school as the dead crowd the building waiting for their chance to attack. For the students, every day is the difference between life and death. Every day is another day they must survive on their own. And every day means more waiting for a way out.
THIS IS NOT A TEST is fantastic! The horrors the teens face and the fact that they are completely on their own are so real and are presented with such depth and emotion. ”
“Holy crap y'all. This. Book. It seriously blew me away. I settled in for another book about people fighting off hordes of zombies, but what I got was so much more. I was so not expecting to love it as much as I did.
What sets this book apart from the standard zombie survival book, is that the main focus is not the zombies. It's the survivors, and the heartbreaking main character, Sloane. The zombies are more of an outside presence throughout roughly 90% of the book. The threat is there, it's just not the main focus.
When the book begins, Sloane has decided to commit suicide. She's tired of living with an abusive father, and her older sister, her one true savior, has run away, leaving Sloane to deal with their father herself. Before Sloane can follow through with her plan, all hell breaks loose outside and she soon finds herself running for her life. Seven days later, Sloane finds herself barricaded in her high school with five other students as the zombies terrorize their small town -- their only contact with the outside world the droning voice of the woman on the radio telling them to seek shelter and that "this is not a test."
As the days go by, the teens do their best to remain calm despite the conflicts within the group. As the others make plans to survive, Sloane wonders why she is even there. She doesn't want to be alive, so why is she fighting for her life?
The character dynamics in this group are amazing. I loved Sloane. She's an emotional wreck, and though she hardly delivers any dialogue, her voice is loud and strong. (The book is told from her point of view). The fact that she doesn't want to live, and spends a majority of the book wondering how she can get outside without bringing harm to the others, makes her even more compelling.
As I said before, this is not your standard zombie novel, but there is plenty of tension. In fact, not having direct contact with the zombies outside makes the book that much more frightening. A lot of the scenes are psychologically intense and kept me glued to the pages. The last few chapters are insane, and seriously left me breathless.
If you liked The Forest of Hands & Teeth series, this is a must read. I highly recommend this one. It is definitely one of my top picks of this year.”
“When I first saw that there was going to be a zombie book written by an author who I usually thought wrote contemporary books, I jumped right on to wanting to read it. Unfortunately, it didn't do much for me.
I'm left with feeling like there were things missing from the story. Sloane is in her house with her father, who abuses her, and she's scared of him, then all of a sudden there's a zombie through her window. It's never explained if this is the first that Sloane has heard of zombies, or if zombies were starting to become common. And it's never explained how this zombie-ness came to be. Then at the end, the book just kind of stops. It's not like there was a cliffhanger where you were left wanting more. It just seemed to end.
Then there's the characters. I felt bad for Sloane because of her home life. I really did. But I didn't really like her for some reason. I didn't really feel that she had any redeeming qualities, which is hard for me to say about someone. Then you had the other students trapped in the high school. Cary and Rhys were pretty okay guys. But Harrington, sorry to say it but he just seemed like a baby. I get that he's young, but the way he was portrayed made him seem like he was 8, not 15. Then there were the twins--Trace was just a first class jerk for most of the book. The only time he was decent was when it came to his sister. I liked Grace. She seemed like a nice girl.
And the plot. When I think of the book on the whole, I think it's more boring where they just sit around a lot because they're trapped and there's not a lot of action. And I usually like more character books. But this one wasn't such a great example. But then I think back to parts of the story and there was action parts here and there. They just don't stick out when I think of the whole.
So yeah, reading my review back it sounds like I hated the book. Which I didn't. I just didn't care about it, plain and simple. I'm indifferent.
“I'm going to preface this by saying that this review is probably going to be a little all over the place, as I'm having a hard time really putting my feelings into words. There were aspects of this book that were absolutely brutal to read; the main character, Sloane, is pretty much done with life and wanting to end it all. You get a pretty good look at why she feels this way - her father abused her and her sister, Lily, and even though Lily promised they'd run off together to escape him, it was really only Lily who ran away and escaped - but her thought processes are so depressing that there were times I had to put this book aside and take a break. Then on top of this, the zombie apocalypse has arrived, and the dead are taking over. Sloane and five others have managed to barricade themselves in their high school, but the dead are right outside, sometimes pounding down the doors. There is an overwhelming sense of despair because of this, which just makes what Sloane is feeling about ten times worse to read about.
However, with that being said, there was something truly gripping about this book. To call this a zombie book would be doing it a disservice, because while the book is set during said zombie apocalypse, the whole point of the book is Sloane's look at life while the others around her - particularly Cary - are doing anything and everything they can to survive. Her point of view is completely at odds with everyone else's, and there are all of these little asides that she says or thinks that really just get to the reader, particularly when it comes to them having to make some hard decisions: "I know we're not bad people, not deep down inside" (pg. 183). For someone who is pretty much living only because she hasn't been able to off herself yet, Sloane is a very compelling character, and I kind of spent the whole time wanting to shake her, and for her to realize that she really could do something with her life even though Lily left her. And what better time to do so then when the world is falling apart and she's finally got a bit of freedom, in that she's out from under her father's thumb? But instead of focusing on how to survive (although she's very good at this, even if she doesn't mean to be), she keeps thinking of these elaborate ways to go out. There was one line that really struck me about Sloane, and it came up towards the end: "[We won't be able to see our deaths coming] and I haven't once imagined a death that was out of my control since this started" (pg. 291). Kind of puts her whole thought process into focus, you know? She's full of these contradictions and keeps doing and saying these things that go are a direct opposite to what she's thinking in her head, and I just couldn't help but be pulled in.
And then you have all of these things that happen because it is the end of the world, and Sloane keeps pointing them out and making note of them, and it just makes you think the entire time you're reading the book, something along the line of, "I wonder if this would have happened or if x would have done this under different circumstances?" And in one respect - not saying what exactly I'm talking about because of spoilers, and Shelfari not having spoiler tags - I would certainly hope it would, because I think it would have helped, but you can't help but think of it as an "end of the world" thing (which is exactly what Sloane says about something else that happened that I won't get into to stay away from the whole spoiler thing).
Even if you're not a fan of zombies - and I would definitely put myself in that camp - I think you could find something to like about this book. The parts with the zombies are frightening and horrifying and terrible, make no mistake, and there is that sense of overwhelming despair, but Sloane's personal journey is something that anyone would be able to connect with. This Is Not A Test will be out in North America on June 19, 2012. I definitely recommend it.
An ARC of this title was provided for free via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.”
“Four Stars: A dark, haunting tale of survival and tough choices.
Thud! Thud! Thud! The constant, repetitive sounds of the living dead beating against the barricaded doors of the high school. They are relentless; driven by their insatiable need to feed on live human flesh. Inside the high school, are six teenagers who survived seven days of hell before finally finding shelter in their high school. Their only link to the outside world and the unknown terror that stalks them, is the repeating female voice on the radio, advising them that "this is not a test" and to seek shelter immediately and wait for help to come. The question is when or if help will come? Will the barricades continue to hold? Is it the end of the world? Will they be next? Thud! Thud! The hours are endless and time seems to standstill as the band of survivors struggle with the reality of their world and wonder if they can survive not only the zombies but themselves.....
What I Liked:
*This is an intense book! Yes, this is a zombie book, but not in the way you expect. The zombies in actuality, are for the most part, just a small element of the book. Aside from some flashbacks and an encounter in the middle, they are really not much of a presence until the final scenes. If you are picking this up expecting a gory zombie infestation, you will likely be disappointed. What you will find is a book that exposes the psychological torment that the survivors endure. Some are fighting to repress the decisions that got them to safety. Others are grappling with the not knowing the fate of their loved ones, while others know the fate of their families and are struggling to cope with the loss. Watching how they all deal with their situations is intriguing. The waves of emotion, the choices and the will to live. There are intense moments of anger and fear and then the painful realization of being alone, and needing the closeness and contact with another human, just to know you can still feel and that you are alive. Secluding the characters and placing them in a sequestered high school allows you to get in their heads and shoes and feel their terror, since neither you or the characters know the extent of the zombie apocalypse. It is the not knowing that keeps you glued to the pages.
*Sloane, the narrator and protagonist is a conundrum. The story opens with her contemplating her suicide. She is trapped under the abusive thumb of her father, and then on that morning when she plans to end it all, the zombie infestation raids through her world and changes everything. The difference between Sloane and the rest of the characters is that she wants to die. Her soul and will to live died months ago when her older sister, her protector, ran away, leaving her alone with her despicable father. She is a shell, long withered and dead, except her body hasn't caught up with her defunct soul. Having Sloane as the tragic narrator was quite shocking. When everyone else is battling to live, she is plotting her death. The reader has no idea why she wants to die, you have to keep reading to uncover the bits and fragments of her cruel life. Her voice is unique and certainly will be one that will stick with me.
*This is a book that relies heavily on atmospheric tension. There is little action through the majority of the book. Instead the reader is fed vivid scraps of prior events in order to have an understanding as to what happened before they arrived at the school. As the reader,you are thrust into the school, behind the barricades with the others as an ignorant witness. As the story unfolds, you see how the issues weigh heavily on the guilt ridden survives and you watch each of them slowly unravel a little more with each passing day, never knowing completely the full extent of the zombie hoard. The author does such a good job of hooking you into the story, that you soon drop your obsession with the zombies and focus on the here and now with the survivors. It is a gripping read. Filled with tension and drama.
And The Not So Much:
*If you are expecting to read this and revel in the zombies, prepare to be disappointed. This book maintains a strict first person narrative. You are seeing everything through Sloane's eyes as they happen, so you are in the dark just like she is as far as the how and why the zombies are there. If you are a reader that needs the details and the world building, this book lacks all of that.
*Sloane is a difficult character. You feel sympathetic toward her as you learn what led her to her painful decision. Yet, I held out hope that someone she would learn to live again and that she would have that desire. Unfortunately, this book has an open ending, so I am left to decide for myself Sloane's fate. I guess it is better than a cliffhanger. I am one of those readers who hates being left in the air. I want closure and I didn't get this at the end.
*Even though I loved the strategic way the author placed me blind in the school with the survivors, I longed for more insight. I wanted to know where the zombies came from? Was the infection world wide? And everything else zombie related.
This is Not a Test, is a gripping read that thrusts you into the aftermath of a zombie invasion. As you read this, you will ask yourself, what would I do? How strong is your will to live? Could you survive the zombie hoard? Would you want to? After living in the darkened confines of the school, while listening to the constant thuds on the doors and the droning voice on the radio, I am not sure I would want to. Ms. Summers crafts a dark, gritty, depressing read that will leave you muddling over the prospects of a zombie invasion.
“I drink until l feel like the ocean is in my stomach and when I’m done, I’m spent.”
“Maybe it’s not safe to be out here alone. Maybe I should go back and wake someone up. I don’t. If anything happens, it will just happen to me.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop. I’m not supposed to be here and the world has ended and it’s too stupid and sad for words and it’s changed time; a second is a minute, a minute is an hour, an hour is a day, a day is a month, a month is a year, and a year---I can’t be here that long.”
“I’m standing on the edge of a cliff and it feels like my heart is missing.”
“I am so sad is makes me heavier than the sum of my parts.”
“The walk to him takes forever. It’s hard to breathe around how badly I feel right now.”
“The energy in the room shifts. They’re kissing still, but now they’re really kissing. It’s so open and so honest and so end of the world and I can feel it from where I’m standing.”
“The rain, I hear it. I imagine it. Fat drops of water splashing onto roofs, tracing slick wet trails down before turning back into smaller droplets that hit the pavement and splash, making puddles.”
“Maybe the only way our story can end is varying degrees of sad. And that I miss, that I need her, and this kind of missing, this kind of need, the kind of emptiness it leaves behind is worse than waking up one day and finding the whole world has collapsed in on itself, that I was over long before it was.”
A big thank you to St. Martin's Griffin Publishing for providing me with a copy for review. ”
“Before I read This is Not a Test, I had heard good things about Courtney Summers' books, but I had not yet had the pleasure of reading them. Therefore, I was really excited to get the chance to read this one because I am a huge fan of zombie books and I figured this would be a great introduction to Courtney's work for me. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed! This is Not a Test is really so much more than just a zombie book. It deals more with the emotional aspects of the six kids trapped in the high school - how they got there, the toll that it has taken on them physically AND psychologically up to that point, and what they have had to do to survive. Our main character, Sloane Price, has already had a tough life, dealing with abuse and abandonment issues after first her mother and then her sister left her. She has already decided that she doesn't want to live through this horror any longer, she just has to decide how and when to die, while keeping her fragile emotional state from the other kids in the school. Be prepared when you read this book for the emotional toll it will take on YOU! What these teens go through is heart wrenching and, although it sounds a little far fetched given that we are dealing with zombies and the end of the world as we know it, it feels so real! That is the true mark of a good author - one who can take an idea that is so far from reality and make you feel the emotions of the characters as though you are going through it all yourself - and Courtney Summers has that in spades! Her writing style is terrific as she makes her characters come to life for you. The characters, even the secondary ones, are very well written and there is marked character growth from beginning to end.
In summary, I totally enjoyed this book as it was different from other zombie novels I've read, but amazingly good! If you love a good emotional story that happens to be set during a zombie apocalypse, then I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you :D”
“Have you ever wondered what the internal processes of the end of the world by zombie apocalypse might ever look like? "The Walking Dead" gives us some idea, but "This Is Not A Test" goes much further than that, giving us almost overwhelming detail into what we might feel as we begin to lose everything around us. It's not like so many of the apocalyptic novels we've come to expect from YA - there is no romance, there is no overbearing government, but there is disaster and need dogging us as the audience at every corner. "This Is Not A Test" is a luminously dark look into the human psyche as all hell breaks loose, and isn't exactly the feel good book of the year, but it's a very much needed book all the same.
We see this through the eyes of Sloane, a girl who's already lost everything and is now waiting for death (or what mimics it) with open arms. She hides with friends/acquaintances in her high school, waiting for either help or the ultimate end of it all to come. Summers does a fantastic job in showing us the internal processes of a girl whose world is so shattered that she already has nothing to lose in such an awful situation, along with need that is so intense that you will probably have to put the book down more than once and walk away just to get yourself back into once piece to continue reading. I know that's what happened to me - I don't have that many triggers, but this book hit on my largest one (abandonment) so there were some moments throughout the book where I did have to take a breather before I could keep going.
One thing I did want to see more of was how this disaster got started - it's good that we start in media res of the entire situation, and it's also good we have the other members of the cast speculating on what might have happened to cause the dead to rise, but I kind of wanted more external explanation (or at least, backstory) to give us a firmer handhold into this world that Summers created. As for the internal conflict (to keep living during the end of the world or to give in and become a zombie snack), that world was incredibly well-built, and reminded me a lot of "Masque of the Red Death" in how very bleak it was. This isn't to say that the external conflict/world wasn't well-built - it was, but up until the last fourth of the novel, the external conflict (omg zombies) wasn't as present as I would have liked, and doesn't really kick in until that important last fourth. Hence, not five stars. I wanted more action on the zombie front, and I liked more of a threat than just the pounding on the walls around our characters.
What was great was the ending - it's so ambiguous, and I'm glad it's a standalone. We have Sloane contemplating living more seriously than ever before, but at the same time, the temptation of death is literally pounding at her window. The final lines of the book are STILL haunting me, and it's been days since I finished the book. Sloane's personal character arc is one of the best I've seen in YA in recent years because she seems so contemporary and yet, in the middle of zombies chowing down on everyone around her, so very not. She's had horrible things done to her, yet she still has the ambivalent question of wanting to live, or maybe not wanting to live, and ping-pongs between the two up until the very end. There was nothing I could really predict or anything I saw coming, and I love it when authors keep me guessing. It seems rare in YA right now and Summers nailed it. She's not afraid to kill (and zombify) her darlings, so she definitely has my respect on that end.
Those that are looking for a high-action om nom nom zombie story might want to look elsewhere. This is an internal examination of the self at the end of the world, and the zombies are really more at the fringes of things, picking people off, silently asking the question of who's the bigger monster - the surviving humans? Or the zombies? It's a question I keep turning over in my head, and I still haven't quite decided yet.
Final verdict? Definitely give it a read. "This Is Not a Test" is out June 19, 2012 in North America from St. Martin's Griffin/Macmillan. Be sure to pick up a copy then and tell me what you think.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)”