Author: Courtney Summers
Pages: Oversize paperback, 322
Published: June 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Opening Lines: "Lily, I woke up and the last piece of my heart disappeared. I opened by eyes and I felt it go."
"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?"
Thoughts: Honestly, I wasn't sure to expect when I started this book. Reading the description, it looked as if it might be an interesting adventure. It seems as though a lot of young adult books are focusing on the apocalypse and/or the aftermath. To me, that it an intriguing concept.
At the start of the book, the audience meets Sloane while she sits in her bathroom thinking about her sister and the veins in her wrists. From her internal dialogue and her father's reaction to her, the audience learns that Sloane lives inside a nightmare—she is abused by her father, her sister left her, and she has decided to kill herself. As she puts it later, she died a long time ago, her body just hasn't caught up. And, from there, the zombie apocalypse hits her. She finds herself with a group of five teenagers trying to survive in their old high school. All the while, she is struggling her with her own internal battle, her desire to end it all, and whether there really is a reason to continue trying.
This book was raw, heartbreaking, gritty, and real. In some ways, out of all the books I have read this year, This is Not a Test has been the hardest. Since the book is all written from Sloane's perspective, the audience is inside her head. It was hard to live inside her nightmare, watch her relive her abusive past, struggle with trying to love someone, and trying to work out a way to die. When she is offered a kind, gentle touch or some love and compassion, she is quick to shy away from it. She makes comments that it is so foreign to her, she is unsure how to even respond. On a deep level, I was able to connect with her.
I felt the author did a good job trying to flesh out the other characters and their interactions. It was apparent that the teens really didn't know each other before they were thrust together. While Sloane had spent the night at Grace and Trace's house, they were, at some level, still strangers. They all knew Cary was a dealer and a slacker; Rhys hung out on the corner and smoked; and no one really knew Harrison. However, even though they didn't know each other, they were all able to form some sort of bond due to the circumstances they were facing together. The author did a wonderful job portraying that. Even though it got hard to read and a little annoying, the tension between Trace and Cary was well done. Honestly, at times, I wondered whether they would end up killing each other.
Most of the book is spent inside the school. While the teens usually didn't stray too far from the auditorium, it was obvious that the author had a full blueprint of the school in her mind. I loved how the school—and their previous classmates—became pseudo characters. When they were going through the lockers, I found it a nice touch that Sloane and some of the other teens felt as though they were doing something wrong. The fact that the classrooms were still a big part of their life and their identity, showed how they were still attached to their old life. And, as a way to highlight this, the teens still called their English teacher Mr. Baxter.
However, aside from all the good things in this book, there are some things that really stuck out to me. Even though her father was obsessive about hiding his abuse, I couldn't understand why the teachers didn't notice Sloane's behavior. At some level, I think she wonders the same thing. Further, I wish the author had stuck with Mr. Baxter a little longer. While I liked his introduction and the story around it, I felt it ended all to quickly. Finally, the grammar started to annoy me. Honestly, it felt as though the author didn't understand compound sentences.
Thinking about it, for me, this book really wasn't about zombies or the end of the world. This book was about Sloane, her journey, and what needed to happen in order for her to wake up. And it takes her until the end of the book for Rhys' comment to finally set in, "We're still here." If you're looking for a book with a lot of zombie violence or horror, this book is not for you. That being said, it was well written and wonderful.
Current Pages: 14,016