Release: June 19, 2012
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?
"I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared. I opened my eyes and I felt it go."
I pulled This Is Not A Test off my bookshelf thinking I would read a little of it then watch some television and go to bed. Instead I read the whole book, cover to cover, in one sitting that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. I was so captivated by Sloane and this unique story that I just couldn't put it down. This Is Not A Test captured my heart (and several hours of my life) in the same vein as Fracture and Masque of the Red Death.
Courtney Summers writes this story from Sloane's point of view in the present tense. Sometimes this style of writing is difficult for my brain to get used to reading. Until its not. I very quickly adapted and was completely engulfed by Sloane's thoughts and emotions. She is a very troubled and depressed girl with the saddest of stories. Her dad abuses her, her sister abandoned her, and she's decided that there isn't really anything for her to live for anymore.
Enter the zombie apocalypse.
For Sloane, the zombies are just another way for her to die, and she sees death as a freedom that she welcomes. She harbors so much resentment for her sister, not to mention everything that's built up inside of her over living through years of abuse, that her inner most thoughts are all focused on when she can get away from the other survivors and finally end her life.
"In a perfect world, I'm over, I'm dead."
"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."
The other survivors. I've seen this book referred to as The Breakfast Club with zombies. That's pretty accurate because of the mash up of personalities of the six teens and the fact that they are stuck together inside a school. But really, that's where the similarities end. Because as the number of days the group stays in the school counts up, the strife among them grows and grows. There's pairing up and taking sides and violence. Most of the five teenagers with Sloane are well written and fully developed. Cary is the bad boy slacker and sometimes leader of the group. Rhys is the cool and caring senior. Trace is the stubborn asshole jock who I often wanted to punch. Grace is the beautiful class president putting on a brave face for her brother, Trace. Harrison is the freshman crybaby who still clings to hope. He is the only character I didn't really feel a connection to. All of the other were amazingly well developed for having so many characters and just one standalone novel in which to develop them.
There is a blossoming romance in this book, but don't expect it to be any sort of sweeping romance that evolves amongst the carnage. Its subtle and born of the need to not be so lonely anymore. I was curious when it began because I wondered if it might give Sloane the reason she needs to live. But Summers is uncompromising in her portrayal of Sloane. While we may see glimmers of hope here and there, the author is true to her character Sloane.
The zombies. We have to talk about them, right? There was actually more zombie appearances then I had expected and I was really impressed with how Summers managed to write the zombie encounters in a terrifying and gruesome way that is still appropriate for YA. I was afraid of watered down zombies, but Summers totally delivered in making me scared to death for our six teens, especially Sloane. Since she is pretty much just biding her time until she can get away from the group and run into a hoard of zombies, I was afraid for her at every turn.
"One of the dead - a girl - grabs my arm and pulls me to her and Rhys finally wakes up. He grabs my other arm and pulls me to him but as hard as he pulls, the dead girl pulls harder while the other four scramble around her for a piece......Rhys grabs the bat and smashes it against the dead girl's wrists, smashes it into the others, whatever he can do to get me free and I'm thinking about how it will never work, how this is it, when the dead girl's grip loosens."
Summers managed to seamlessly combine her beautiful contemporary writing with a zombie apocalypse and I'm so glad that I picked this book up.
Recommended for fans of: Summers' other YA books, zombies, anti-heroines, The Breakfast Club, and staying awake until 3 AM.