This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

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This is Not a TestTitle: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Publication Date: June 19th, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Rating: 3 stars

Ostensibly, This is Not a Test is a novel about a group of teenagers dealing with a zombie apocalypse, but in reality, the zombies are just a backdrop. This book is more about depression, suicide, and somehow finding a reason to survive against all odds. There’s not a whole lot of action, and we only meet the zombies face-to-face a couple of times – most of the novel is spent inside a fortified school, where the characters get to know each other and Sloane works through her many issues. 

Sloane was best friends with her sister, Lily, and they shared in the abuse their father doled out. Lily was practically her world, and so when she runs away and leaves Sloane behind (despite promising her she’d wait for her), Sloane finds no reason to keep living. The abuse gets worse, and Sloane decides she wants to die. Even as zombies ravage the town, her mission is clear – find a way to die that doesn’t put everyone else in danger. 

It’s easy to get angry at Sloane, but I find that you must be able to understand her and forgive her. She can be mean and selfish at times, but she’s a very damaged character. Those who have dealt with depression, the desire to commit suicide, or any other mental illness might recognize the bleakness of being in Sloane’s mind. They might recognize how she lashes out at others, even when she doesn’t actually want to hurt them. I know I do. 

It’s hard to get attached to the other characters, simply because this isn’t their story. This is Not a Test is very much centered on Sloane, and she spends a good deal of time shutting everyone out. Even when she finally lets up, and even when she gets involved with another one of the survivors, I didn’t find myself particularly caring for anyone else. I find this inability to deeply care for the entire cast the novel’s weakest point.

Overall, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it. It’s probably not one that I will revisit in the future, but I’ll still be reading any book Courtney Summers comes out with. Her strength is in creating a believable main character and her writing is lovely, and she remains one of my favorite young adult authors. 

About the author

I root for young girls neglected by their narrative. I search for diversity in a cast of characters. I do not hesitate to critique something I find offensive or lacking in quality.

5 comments:

  1. Sloane's character is one that takes up an entire book. That reason made me like her a little less because I wanted to know other characters. I still latched on to a few even though it probably wasn't a good idea to. Great review!

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    1. It's hard for me to say that I LIKED Sloane, but I definitely understood her. I did, however, really like Grace, and I wish there had been more of her!

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  2. I really liked because zombies eating people wan't the main focus.

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  3. This was my first Courtney Summers novel, though now that I've read through her backlog, I can see this isn't necessarily her best work or my favorite. However, I really did enjoy it and there's something so eerily readable about the dark stories that Summers writes. Wonderful review!

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  4. I've read praise after praise on this book and this the first review I've read where someone liked it but didn't love it. I haven't read it yet despite it sitting on shelf for months but I feel like you brought up good points on the book that maybe others missed over because of hype, especially on that perhaps the goal was you were meant to relate to Sloane but not necessarily like her.

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